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Friday, 19 April 2024

Gov’t flunked opportunity to increase influence in De Beers

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Magang says Gov’t should have acquired 10 percent stake from the Oppenheimers

Former Cabinet Minister, David Magang has revealed that government wasted a golden opportunity to take control of De Beers when the Oppenheimer family decided to offload their entire 40 percent stake in the company in 2011.

Magang is of the view that government should have acquired the 10 percent stake it was offered by the Oppenheimer family in 2011, which would have raised Botswana’s total stake to 25 percent. Botswana refused to take up the offer, a development which saw Anglo American moving swiftly to take up the entire offer and increase its stake to 85 percent.


Minister of Finance and Development Planning stated at the time that the decision not to take up the Oppenheimer family offer was influenced by the fact that Botswana could not afford it. The 10 percent offered to Botswana was valued at P9.8 billion which Matambo reasoned that it was equivalent to 10 percent of Botswana’s GDP.


Other reasons advanced by the Minister were that the country already had a total debt portfolio of P20.5 billion, of which P14 billion or 68 percent constituted external debt. Matambo reasoned that the acquisition of the portion of Oppenheimer would have compromised Botswana’s standing with credit rating agencies as well. “I thought the Government’s reasoning was self-serving, if not out rightly selfish,” wrote Magang in his latest book, Delusion of Grandeur, “Here was a golden opportunity to empower its people that it scuppered willy-nilly.”


Magang wrote in his book that Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) has a whole of Gaborone-full cash that it has invested overseas which government should have recalled part of to use to them to acquire the extra stake in De Beers. “P9.8 billion was just over only a quarter of BPOPF’s total funds under the management at the time,’ he contended.


According to Magang if Government was not in a position to spend the whole P9.8 billion it should have acquired at least a further 1 percent- just under P1billion- not for its own sake but for its people. “It should have then formed a new company for this purpose and issued an IPO aimed at citizens only,” he reasoned.


Magang contended that if government had managed to establish companies like Okavango Diamonds to sell diamonds and Botswana Oil to buy and sell oil, another SOE to take care of the citizenry’s De Beers stake would not be much of a stretch.

“Citizens would then have been invited to buy shares into the company using a bank loan partly underwritten by Government,” he argued, “De Beers is not a risk proposition: it is a global blue chip. The odds that Government would lose its money hardly arose.”


The Phakalane Estate proprietor argued that had government done likewise, it would have made a quantum leap in one fell swoop toward real economic empowerment of its citizenry. “Sadly our government is concerned only about its own wealth: that of its citizenry is way secondary, it makes my heart bleed,” Magang contended.


Magang took a swipe at the government’s Citizen Empowerment Policy (CEE) describing it as “a mere permeable” and looking incomplete. “It does not by any measure strike one as authoritative document; to the contrary, one gets the impression it is little more than an advisory paper that was prepared not by a seasoned policy craftsman but by an intern,” he argued, “Frankly, it galls me that millions of taxpayers’ money were spent only to come up with such a amateurish product.”


Magang said the CEE is neither comprehensive nor strategic and lacks holistic approach to citizen economic empowerment. “The indicators of empowerment are only casually outlined. There are no accompanying quantifiable targets and timescales to attain degrees of these targets,” Magang noted.


Magang wrote that the fact that the then Minister of Trade and Industry Dorcus Makgato-Malesu told the Competition Authority conference in 2013 that government was not obliged to procure locally produced goods and services and it was her ministry tasked with overseeing and coordinating CEE left much to be desired. “I think I now know what CEE, or rather CED, is all about.

It is a propaganda technique to give Batswana a false hope of the future to perpetuate in them the illusion that government is doing something about their economic anonymity when it is actually either indifferent altogether or systematically and stealthily disempowering them to glee and cheer of foreigners and their allies in the hierarchies of Government,” he expressed.

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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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