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BERA fires ‘whistleblowing’ Finance Chief

Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority’s (BERA) long running financial irregularities feuds have flared up again and this time around there is a casualty, as Finance Director Chawada Machacha was shown the exit door.

Since beginning its operations in September 2017, the regulatory authority responsible for providing an efficient energy framework for renewable energy is synonymous with negativity. Recently after a ‘dysfunctional’ board was suspended, it seemed BERA entered a rejuvenated era. This sense of serenity has, however, been shattered as allegations of corruption and office abuse resurfaced at the Lobatse based institution.

The financial rot emanates from office refurbishment which was initially budgeted at P5.9 million but rather increased to P6.3 million. The renovations which included furniture and other accessories then sky rocketed to a staggering P12.2 million. In what many view as the tip of an iceberg, Finance Director, Machacha, was this week dismissed from employment with immediate effect, after exposing the embarrassing expenditure by the BERA executive.

The letter dated 26th February referenced ‘dismissal from employment-yourself [Machacha]’ reads as thus; “You were charged with wilful disclosure of confidential information which disclosure is detrimental to the interest of the employer contrary to clause of the BERA Disciplinary Procedures as contained in the General Conditions of Service, 2017.” It further reads; “As a result, you are hereby dismissed from work without notice, with immediate effect in accordance with BERA Disciplinary Procedures Section 21.8.3 and section 26 of the Employment act.”

The letter signed by BERA CEO Rose Seretse, says, the decision to sack the employee is subsequent to a disciplinary meeting instituted against the employee on the 20-25th of this month. At the core of the incidents that gave rise to the charges, are articles in the Gazette newspaper of which they were to the detriment of the authority and put it into disrepute, the letter reads in part.

It is however noted that the disciplinary hearings were conducted in Machacha’s absence as her reasons not to attend were deemed not valid by the panel which proceeded with the disciplinary enquiry as the employee waived her right to be heard or defend herself. BERA finance team has since been suspended on suspicion of bringing the institution in disrepute by exposing misappropriation of funds. The regulatory authority as it totters into a mud of financial rot has now attracted the attention of its parent ministry.

The new development is expected to open a can of worms as the finance team has already written a letter to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Resources Mmetla Masire regarding the matter. At centre stage is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Seretse and Chief Operations Officer (COO) Duncan Morotsi, who prior to Machacha’s sacking were said to have breached good corporate governance by personally handling the office renovations.

Last year the then Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale instituted a commission headed by former Deputy Attorney General, Tendekani Malebeswa to investigate BERA. The probe team was to have instructive terms of reference to recommend the dismissal of BERA’s CEO, Rose Seretse; check the procurement processes of BERA which allowed the Chairman of BERA, Bernard Ndove to sell computers to the organisation; and finally audit the allowances given to Board members and some executives.

This publication is reliably informed that the commission in 2018 managed to interrogate all the eight board members, some junior staff members and former Minister Sadique Kebonang. “There are problems at BERA which have been reported to me officially. The investigation is to help me get the facts right and thereafter take the right decisions,” Kebonang told WeekendPost in 2018, adding that, “In fact Seretse [Rose] is the one who reported most issues.” Kebonang confirmed that he appeared before the commission on good authority to explain the setting up of BERA, appointment of Seretse as the CEO and board members. But despite all these, the government is still failing to clean the mud which stains BERA.

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Botswana economic recovery depends on successful vaccine rollout – BoB

5th May 2021

Bank of Botswana (BoB) has indicated that the rebounding of domestic economy will depended on successful vaccine roll-out which could help business activity to return to its post pandemic days.

Projections by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggest a rebound in economic growth for Botswana in 2021.

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Inside the UB-BDF fighter Jet tragedy report

5th May 2021

Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.

Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”

Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”

The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.

“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.

Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.

Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.

Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.

Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”

In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”

Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.

“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.

Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.

Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.

He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”

Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.

“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.

One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.

A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.

Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.

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Uphill battle in Khama’s quest to charge Hubona

5th May 2021

A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.” 

Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.

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