In the wake of media reports that have all but confused the names the late Harry Tembo and myself Liver Tembo on the construction of Isaac Kgosi’s house in Phakalane, I seek to set the record straight.
I am Liver Tembo and first met Isaac Kgosi at my office in Broadhurst nine years ago. I did not even know who he was then. One Friday afternoon, I received a call from the man who introduced himself by name only. He explained to me that he was looking for a Project Manager to assist him develop his property in Phakalane.
He had been advised by some of my clients that I managed a number of houses under a direct project management scheme I was operating. I explained to him the services we were offering and the fees that would be charged.
At the time, I did not know I was talking to a powerful man who was working in the office of the Vice President as his Private Secretary. Not at any time during our telephone conversation did he mention the office he held.
I requested him to come to my office for further discussion.He expressed satisfaction with the charge and said he would come that evening to my office with his drawings for further discussion.
He arrived at my office in Broadhurst around 1730hours in a twin cab Isuzu bakkie with his wife. We discussed the project and I advised him that the preliminary cost estimate indicated the project would cost approximately over P1,000,000.00 and he indicated he had no problem as he had already sourced funds from Barclays Bank.
It was only after I asked him what he did for a living that he explained to me that he worked as Private Secretary to the Vice President, who was later to be the President of the country.
Being a foreigner, I realised immediately that I was interacting with the one of the most powerful men in the government. Feeling ashamed because of the charge that I had given him, I then offered him a discounted figure for my services. The man refused and asked me to treat him as I would any other client. The contract agreement was signed the same weekend to allow me to supervise the project and secure a contractor to carry out the works.
He then informed me that he would be leaving the following week for a one year training programme in the UK while his wife would similarly leave for a year’s course in the United States of America. When I asked how the funds disbursement would be made for the project from the bank, he explained to me that he would give me the power of attorney to sign and request payment from the bank in his absence.
Obviously this was a man who trusted me at first sight. The following week he wrote a letter authorizing me to access his funds from the bank and left me with cash of about K200,000.00 to kick start the project. I then engaged a Mr Jere, a fellow Zambian as a contractor under a company called Transcon Pty Limited to undertake the construction under a labour only contract arrangement whilst I collect funds and purchased all the materials for the project as work progressed. Under our terms of agreement, I was to reconcile all the purchases of materials and balance them up in accordance with the funds collected from the bank.
However, by the time he returned from the UK, it was realised that an over claim of P400,000.00 was made upon reconciliation. Upon his return, Isaac Kgosi was appointed head of the DISS, one of the most powerful positions in government. And so there I was having over-claimed funds (which could have been tantamount to fraud) amounting to over P400,000.00 for a house which was far from being completed.
I remember the sleepless nights I had before I could break the news to him regarding my reconciliation report on his funds. The man had spent his hard earned savings and a loan facility which he was already paying monthly at a high interest rate only to find that this Project Manager had not utilised all the money on the project. I did not know what to expect from him, his reaction and what he would do to me if I told him the news.
I am talking of a man who by using his power could probably have influenced the non-renewal of my work permit or have it revoked instantly. I approached him that evening to give him my report, apologising over my over claim. “I knew it before you could tell me, I had done my own assessment and I was able to tell that you had not used all the money on the house,” he told me.
I remember then being nearly in tears as I told him. Being a man of few words, Kgosi simply told me, “It’s ok. I will give you time to pay me back the money but you will have to include the interest the bank has charged me.”
I was in shock. Here is a man whom I owed so much money telling me he would give me time to pay it back. After that, all my fears disappeared for this is a man who despite what I had done still wanted me to be his friend. I remember the following week he asked me to accompany him to Matsiloje, his village, to see his mother. As we discussed, he told me that he knew things had not gone right on his house but he realized that he could not fight a person who had told him he was sorry for what he had done.
Kgosi told me that his father, when he was alive, once told him that he should never take advantage of his high position in government to fight personal battles with people. He told me he was a believer in justice for all and therefore treated every human being equally. Given his background, he explained that he was in a privileged position to serve government at such a high position but that would not go to his head.
I came to know Kgosi as a man you would never find him in a company of a lot of people. He told me that the reason he had few friends was because he did not like to mix with people who simply want to know him in order to take advance of him just because he was close to the President.
I was impressed that the man that most people feared so much was a down to earth person who values people so much. I realized that I had become close to a man whom people fear so much yet he is such a simple man. He would invite me for dinner at his house and sometimes even visit me. A family man who loves gardening, he would spend his weekends with his family at home. I remember sometimes he would stand at the Phakalane round about to assist traffic during peak hours.
It took me over 3 years to pay back his money and at no time did he put me under any pressure. By that time, due to interest charges, it was more than P600,000.00. I cannot quite remember if I had even finished paying back the money when I told him I would be spending more time in Zambia. Yet he did not on any occasion put me under any pressure.
It struck me how noble the character was of a man who knew very well that my house in Phakalane was fully paid and that I was driving a top of the range Mercedes Benz ML350 car I had bought during the time his house was under construction. He could so easily have accused me of using some of his money to acquire this or sued me, demanding that I sell the house for him to recover his money. He did neither.
In the event, the construction of his house was delayed and he had to seek additional funds from the bank to complete the house. The trail of funds being made to Kgosi from me over a period of 3 or 4 years was purely to refund the money that was over-claimed on the construction of his house.
This is the Isaac Kgosi that I know. Since I have been spending more time in Zambia, I have constantly been in touch with him and visit him at his house whenever I am in Botswana. I am not Harry Tembo and have never done any consultancy work or construction work for the DISS. There is no record of L.T and Associates having undertaken any project for the DISS.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.