He was never a man short of ambition. But Tati East legislator, Samson Guma Moyo finds himself between a rock and a hard place as his business and political empire is potentially crumbling at his feet and he has very little left in him to save his grace.
Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) could be exactly what the doctor ordered – as per the script of those worried by his rising political and business star. Guma was galvanising himself for presidency and many in his party had noticed or heard at this stage. At this stage Guma has roped in Dick Bayford to reverse the Hero to Zero cursive and only time will tell.
Some presidential campaigns fizzle with a whimper — and some go out with a cringe-inducing bang. The shapeup to the 2019 political season will have its share of bottle-rocket candidates like Mokgweetsi Masisi, Duma Boko, Dumelang Saleshando and others, who shot to the top of politics with fiery confidence but could explode amid colourful comments and personal controversies.
Guma wanted to be party to the mill will as the political story of Botswana unravels in the next five years. But as things stand, his story is over. The question remains if he will resurrect his fortunes?
This publication has established from various sources that Guma harboured the idea that he could soon run for the office of President. So determined was the flamboyant legislator that he was ready to table a private member’s bill calling for direct election of the president of the republic of Botswana. At the peak of his political life within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Guma was elected the party chairman in Maun amid contestations that money was the leverage that saw the slippery legislator cross the bridge.
Sources who spoke to Weekend Post demonstrated that at this stage Guma saw himself as a maverick and was potent with an eminent appointment to the highest office in the land. He was more than ready to position himself among the elites of the ruling party to ensure that his presidential bid gain traction.
Of course he understood the dynamics and politics of the BDP very well to the extent that his chase for a seat at Orapa House would face obstacles of imminent proportions. He was slowly but surely waxing lyrical the party to allow him to table a private member’s bill on direct election of the president and he was almost on a home run – until BURS and DCEC together with the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) stopped him on his tracks.
In 2013 Guma had told this publication that he was still engaging the party on the subject of direct election of the president. He has said he did not want to rash the matter as he was duty bound to get the buy in of the party leadership and its members. “Little did we know that this was to the most extent to serve his appetite for the presidential office,” said one of Guma’s confidantes.
They had only assumed that Guma was reacting to a fertile political landscape whereupon the opposition was calling for direct election of the president and the civil society and academia were fattening up the debate.
2014 was hardly the first political season to witness the sudden collapse of a can't-lose personality – 2015 has definitely come hard on him, relegating him to shadows and alienating him from the very same people he wanted to cling onto for protection and gloss of his political career.
Guma severed ties with Thapelo Olopeng, his long-time business partner. Olopeng was probably the anchor in the business. Guma’s latest predicament with the tax collecting agency leaves him in the cold because it has alienated him from President Lt Khama, who surely is in the know of what Guma did wrong or right. The Tati East legislator has also publicly attacked Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama.
Tshekedi is also seen as a potential Vice President and ultimately president of the future as long the BDP is still in power. Guma had even told his constituents who had congregated in Francistown at Marang hotel last month that some people did not want him in politics. He further told them that he was preparing to quit politics.
Guma is not new to political turbulence, at one stage he had to leave cabinet because of alleged investigations by the DCEC. But the matter died a natural death and he was back in Khama’s arms was more or less endorsed for chairmanship of the party against former Education minister, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi. In the last central committee election of the ruling party, Guma had strategically chosen not to run for any position given his sudden resignation from chairmanship last year after some senior party officials accused him of aiding their demise at the party primaries. Instead he inked his name all over Vice President Mokweetsi Masisi’s campaign; it was also supposed to be a strategic move calculated to give no indication of his (Guma) long term plans.
Permutations are such that Guma was eyeing the after President Khama era which seems to have attracted onlookers. It is understood that he fancied his chances against anyone who could succeed Khama under the current automatic succession and put his money on the direct election of president law – because under such a dispensation anyone can put their hand up and be slotted onto the ballot paper.
Khama’s term comes to an end in the first quarter of 2018, and a few prominent ruling party members want to succeed him, but the best bet for now is Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi who should benefit from the automatic succession dispensation – but this will only last as long as the status quo.
The Tati East legislator is seen as being too cosy with Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU PF and President Robert Mugabe. He also has mining businesses in that country. Guma has even had adhoc meetings with Mugabe in the past.
For now Guma remains in the eye of the storm – and many are waiting to see if he will call it a day in politics as he has promised; what will be the end result of his current run-in with the BURS and the DCEC; and whether he will re-locate to Zimbabwe where he has other business interests?
The BURS wants him to pay over P35 million in unpaid taxes, and the DCEC on the other hand wants to charge him with living beyond his means. His accounts are currently frozen and he wants the action reversed, he fingers Office of the President in his current troubles.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.