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BDP, Chiepe in cybercrime lawsuit

BDP SECRETARY GENERAL: Mpho Balopi

An Information technology company is threatening to launch two law suits, one aimed at businessman and farmer, Monty Chiepe and another directed at the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in a matter involving ‘unlawful’ confiscation of property and failure to honour agreements.


According to a demand letter shared with this publication, Noroc wants businessman, Monty Chiepe to explain why he seized several computers and related materials of the said Information Technology (IT) company, Noroc Technologies (Pty) Ltd, under unclear circumstances.


WeekendPost is informed that the businessman collected computers and other property “as evidence” from Noroc business premises at Phakalane on 16 April 2015.


As a result the company has engaged a Gaborone based lawyer, Joram Matomela of JJ Matomela Attorneys who intends to file an urgent application with the High Court to compel Chiepe to restore possession of the said properties to his client.


It is understood that Noroc Technologies (Pty) Ltd had been previously engaged by the ruling BDP to compile and analyse their membership databases. The BDP did not pay for the services rendered by the company and its proprietors sued, but later decided for an out of court settlement which never took off.


Indications are that the company accessed and associated itself with sensitive information pertaining to the BDP as their client – in particular relating to the party database and a certain report concerning the projected performance of the party in the 2014 general elections which was said to be standing at 43%.  


It is understood that the BDP agreed to pay the said IT Company P1.2 million (including software worth P8.4 million) for providing the services before the General Elections – but they have not fulfilled the contract months after the elections. WeekendPost learnt that Noroc then instituted a court case against the party for failing to honour the arrangement while the party wanted to settle the matter outside court.


This publication has gathered that Matomela has already written a letter notifying one Monametsi Chiepe, who the court papers indicate that he claimed to be acting on behalf of the DIS, of the intention to sue over the confiscation of company computers and other materials.


“Take notice that your seizure of our client’s property has paralysed its operations and currently the company cannot function. In the premises we are instructed to demand, as we hereby do, that before close of business today (22 April 2015), i.e. by 1700hrs you restore possession of the property you have seized to the client,” Matomela warned.


The attorney also asserted that, “in the event that you had not complied with the above demand, we hold instructions to apply on urgent basis to the High Court to compel you to restore possession of the said property to the client.”


At the time of the seizure of the said property it is understood that Chiepe had no legal authority in the form of a court order that entitled them to client’s property. “We do hereby advice that your actions as afore-stated are unlawful. The unlawfulness thereof arises from the fact that, firstly, you do not have a legal claim to the said property and secondly you had no legal instrument in the form of a court order entitling you to seize the property.”


WeekendPost team then visited Monty Chiepe at his farm on the outskirts of Gaborone. He rubbished the allegations leveled against him by the IT Company saying they are not true and devoid of accuracy.


He indicated that instead the company has violated some cybercrime laws and he will be taking the matter to the courts very soon – as he feels he has “a strong case against the company.”


While he admitted to seizing the computers from the company, Chiepe said the computers belonged to him and some other stuff was owned by the company of course.


The calm and collected Chiepe said he has collected evidence enough to convince the court to arbitrate in the matter.


He said whether the IT Company takes him to court or not, he will still pursue his own case against the company. He asked this publication to follow the matter at court with keen interest as the truth will be revealed and consequently the case may assist other Batswana in the war against cybercrimes.


Matomela’s letter indicates that Noroc directors are accused of ‘cloning’ Chiepe’s company, and the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) among others. The directors are alleged to have been threatened with jail.


It also states that Chiepe allegedly told the company directors to withdraw the case they had instituted against the BDP as well as withdraw from the police tender number DJS/MTC/POL:083/2014-2015. The tender which is worth P1 million and according to the letters passed to Chiepe, some BDP big shots had interest in the tender.


 “The reason why the client is taking these threats serious is because prior to the seizure of the property complained of herein, there had been numerous threats and underhand tactics by various BDP officials to compel clients to retain what they seemed sensitive information on the BDP relating to its database and a report relating to the performance of the party in 2014 General Elections,” said the letter.


Meanwhile BDP Executive Secretary Sechele Sechele confirmed that the IT Company had wanted to do business with the BDP but the deal could not proceed due to their “high expectation of the deal.”


Noroc however claims to have worked with the BDP before – assisting with databases compilation as well as compiling and analyzing a prediction for the party towards 2014 General Elections.


“It’s true we have associated with the company but we could not engage them further as their expectations were too high and instead we opted for some other reasonable company,” said Sechele.


Sechele also confirmed that the Noroc had approached the court to sue the BDP on the matter. It is understood that the said Noroc dumped its lawyer along the way suspecting that he was working in cohorts with the BDP and instead engaged an alternative lawyer.


The Directors of the company are Temo Tau and Fredrick Mathiba. Noroc Technologies is a 100% citizen owned company specializing in software development.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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