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Thursday, 18 April 2024

MPs fear land crisis will divide the nation

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Former Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Deputy Commander Major General Pius Mokgware has warned government not to fall in the trap of other foreign countries where civil wars originated from land disputes as a result of failure to distribute land equally to all citizens.


Mokgware, who is a Member of Parliament for Gabane-Mankgodi said consistent failure by government to give citizens land for residential and commercial use may result in frustrations leading to revolt either against government or against another.


Debating the budget for Ministry of Lands and Housing tabled by Minister Prince Maele, Mokgware said land was at the centre of dispute in the majority of wars throughout the world in the last few years. It is against this reason that Mokgware wants to avoid a situation where citizens will go for jugular in future and fight against another for land ownership.


Mokgware also spoke against government policy towards the youth in land allocation. Mokgware said inability to allocate land to youth will effectively lead to their disempowerment since they cannot do anything without land ownership. Maele had told parliament that out of 18,857 plots allocated last year 1,748 were allocated to youth something which Mokgware said is disappointing. “We should be at least talking about 10,000 of those plots being allocated to youth,” he said.


Also debating the budget proposal was MP for Tlokweng Same Bathobakae who called for government to review the BHC mandate and divert it from a profit driven entity to a service driven one with the view of delivering houses at affordable rate to ordinary Batswana. “BHC should not be profit driven and distribution of land should show development,” she said.


Over the last few years Tlokweng has been of the areas which have been at the centre of plot allocation debacle with tribal leaders preferring an arrangement where Batlokwa are given priority in plot allocation. The view has been shared by some in society including President Khama who had promised a policy that will give priority to native dwellers in land allocation.


The Tlokweng MP also expressed disappointment that government has the tendency of repossessing land from citizens without notifying them. Bathobakae said these results in them selling land when they are not able to develop the plots. 

Bathobakae also observed that the land crisis and indecisiveness in allocating plots for business use is turning away investors from starting businesses in Botswana.


Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Thapelo Olopeng said government should consider closing the loopholes in the laws regarding transfer and selling of land to foreigners. Olopeng said he has realized that plot owners transfer the ownership of their plots to their companies and in the process the companies get sold, all company assets are acquired including land. Olopeng warned that this will result in transferring majority of land to foreign ownership contending that there is a need to review land transfer legislation.


Olopeng also shared similar concerns with MP Mokgware in regard to youth land ownership. Olepeng contended that empowerment of youth starts with land ownership as a result requested government to consider a policy that will favour youth in land ownership.


According to Olopeng government should also consider allowing people to drill boreholes in their homes for the purpose of watering their gardens. Olopeng said it will prove beneficiation to consider such a move and the situation could rescue gardens in the current situation where there is water shortage.


Noah Salakae, MP for Ghanzi North said lack of clear policy will result in wealthy citizens acquiring more land at the expense of ordinary citizens. Salakae faulted the land allocation process saying a country with a mere population of 2 million should not be facing land shortage. Salakae equated the population of Botswana to just a population of a city in some countries, including neighbouring South Africa. 

 
Maele told parliament that the land registration component of the Land Administration Procedures, Capacity and Systems (LAPCAS) project has surveyed 235,187 plots and 67,728 plot owners have come forth to confirm plot ownership. However, Maele noted that there is a challenge emanating from reluctance by some land holders to come forth and confirm ownership of their land especially in Kweneng Districts.


Ministry of Lands and Housing was allocated P1.6 billion for 2015/16 year to cater for Recurrent and Development budget for the ministry.  This allocation represents a 35 percent increase when compared to last year’s P1.2 billion allocated to the ministry.

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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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