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Friday, 19 April 2024

Permanent Secretary sets CID agents on graft tipster

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MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Slumber Tsogwane

In a case that could demonstrate why Botswana needs whistle-blower protection law, the outgoing permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Khumo Matlhare effectively leaked a letter alleging maladministration and corruption by one of his senior officers. He availed the said letter, authored by the junior to the attention of the Minister, to the concerned senior officer.


As if this was not enough, our sources at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development have informed is publication that the officer based in the Central District, has been charged with misconduct and accessing confidential information.

She is expected to go through disciplinary proceedings this month and faces three counts. The permanent secretary is said to be incensed by the fact that the junior officer did not route her letter through the same officer she is complaining about.


In addition, the permanent secretary is said to have instructed the Botswana Police and some members of the Central Investigation Department (CID) to search the office of the officer, confiscate her memory sticks, CPU, laptops and other gadgets. It is understood that this was done to ensure that she does not have access to any information that could be deemed confidential. She was accused of accessing information from her supervisor’s office.


The policer officers who were instructed to seize property from the officer were under the impression that the instruction had come from the Office of the President only to learn that it was the permanent secretary who arranged the heist.

The officers who were not armed with a search warrant were meant to wait for a letter authorising the confiscation of the computers from the permanent secretary, but the letter was never faxed and they ended up leaving the office without confiscating any property. They were under the instruction to collect the computers and keep them in the office of the District Commissioner (DC).


On follow up, this publication gathered from a CID officer in Palapye that he heard that the three officers who were sent to the Local Government officer were actually very senior. There was an Assistant Superintendent, an Inspector and a Sergeant, all three from the Serowe CID department.


The Minister, Mr Slumber Tsogwane was given the letter of complaint and he passed it on to his permanent secretary, Matlhare for action. According to information reaching this publication, the officer has since been instructed to leave her work station with immediate effect. “But we learn that she is fighting back through her attorneys because she sees this as harassment,” said an officer at Local Government.


In the original letter in which she was alleging acts of corruption and maladministration, the officer who works in the office of the District Commissioner in the Central District had filed a chilling letter detailing what she described as ‘maladministration’ in the Central District at the District Commissioner’s office. The letter is currently making life very uncomfortable in the office of the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Tsogwane.


“Firstly there are several issues which I am alive to which border on maladministration that I have stood against, which without doubt contributed to this transfer; therefore transferring me is a desperate attempt to silence me. This maladministration practices will be elaborated at a later stage,” she wrote.


After stating her case against a forced transfer, the officer went on to elaborate on a number of instances where she was instructed to make unprocedural payments and refused.

“I was requested by my supervisor (names withheld) to write a letter to Supplies Office to request for direct appointment of a company (name withheld) to clear the District Commissioner’s official residence contrary to financial instruction. I did not accede to the instruction as I was not comfortable with being involved in malpractices and this did not sit well with my boss,” she wrote.


A number of local government officers are complaining about acts of maladministration and alleged corruption in the Ministry. They allege that when they refuse to be party to the actions they are victimised with unjust transfers and disciplinary actions.  


Another piece of information leaked to this publication by a disgruntled Ministry of Local Government officer this week suggests that at one point last year she was made to pay P12 000 for 12 ordinary diaries and when she complained to the supplier about the price her supervisor told her that she has negotiated the price from P12000 to P7000. She further indicated that Morupule Colliery Mine once donated P5000 to the Public Service Choral Choir and the money never went to the choir because it was used to buy alcohol for a party organised by her supervisor.


Other officers who spoke anonymously to this publication shared their frustrations on transfers indicating that there are officers who are never transferred. “They buy their way to stay at one station by being used to approve shady deals. Some of them benefit immensely because they are transferred to their preferred stations on promotion and a year letter they are transferred back to their favourite stations,” one of the employees alleged.


Khumo Matlhare is expected to pass the baton to the next person because he has been shifted from the position of permanent secretary to that of coordinator effective May 1st.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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