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Import car dealers give up! BURS has won!

Botswana’s import car industry market future looks bleak following the recent unearthing of massive tax evasion by the dealerships at the behest of Botswana Unified Revue Services (BURS).  

WeekendPost has established that given the tax the car dealers have been evading for years running in millions, dealers will likely not be able to pay the dues to the government coffers anytime soon. It is understood that the move may see many of them closing down for good following the flouting of the customs duty law.  One of the fong kong car dealers, Brian Tom of Tom’s Import cars, told WeekendPost this week that: “Let us forget about the import cars. The BURS guys have closed in on us, and it looks permanent (closure).”

He added that the, “tax collectors are even refusing with those cars they have possessed. They valued these cars and after we pay for the valuation they refused to give the cars back on reasons that they are investigating us. And these cars are our money. We bought them with our cash with expectation that they will be bought to accumulate back the money.” This publication understands that as the tax man cracks the whip, 1522 vehicles have been confiscated so far from 24 car dealerships in Mogoditshane.

“We have written extensive statements and affidavits at Police on how we have been buying these imported cars from Durban in South Africa. It seems like they want to further incarcerate us for doing such business,” he pointed out. The Import car dealer highlighted that it will be difficult to sell these imports going forward while adding that: “it’s either they want to stop us from doing this business or they want to do it themselves.” The car dealer emphasised that there are no jobs in the country but they are just shutting down the industry which has employed many Batswana.

“As I speak, all garages in Mogoditshane have been closed up. All offices selling cars have also been closed. Even my office is closed. It’s been closed since January up to now. As the month comes to an end I don’t know what to do for survival,” he said adding that he has even given up. “I am contemplating on removing all the branding in the office and look for a different business or go back to the village. I am giving up,” he highlighted.  

Tom also took time to further tell this publication that he regrets casting his vote in favour of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) as he did not listen to someone who persuaded him to remove the party from power. “If President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi knows about all these things then he is not fit for office. You cannot attack an existing car industry. This industry has even employed people. People make a living through selling these cars,” he lambasted.

Meanwhile, a customer of the imported cars, Thabang Letsibogo also threw in his penny about the matter from a local customer perspective. He cited the business mogul Satar Dada who might have politically influenced the tax man to go for the dealers who sell at a cheaper price than big dealers.  

“I think Satar Dada fears competition. He controls the economy of this country and enjoys monopoly. Like the infamous Guptas in South Africa, this is done just to favour him. But cars at Motor Centre and Barloworld are very expensive,” the fong kong customer stressed out.  
He continued to highlight that the economy of Mogoditshane is now collapsing due to the prevailing circumstances. Mogoditshane will be a ghost village soon with all car garages closed, he said.

Another customer who spoke on condition of anonymity pointed a finger at the import car dealership. He warned that “they have to do business the proper way. But it is not over. They can pay the fines, then withdraw from doing shady deals.” When a car was bought at P40 000 from Durban they must not down price it to P20 000 to dodge tax at the border, that money should have gone into the country to provide key developments.

He observed that “the only "danger" that they are facing in future, if the dealers manage to open up, as Mogoditshane cars consumers – is inflated prices. Just as example, he said, a Honda fit which now costs around P20 000 will probably then be escalated to cost approximately P45 000. When reached for comment, Motor Centre Toyota Botswana proprietor Dada dismissed the assertion that he fears competition: “We don’t sell those cheap cars. It’s totally different. Different markets.”

On his alleged political interference to curb competition from such dealers he told WeekendPost that there is: “no political interference. Nothing like that,” while attacking the fong kong import dealers to pay tax: “why do it in the first place? The problem is with these guys because they are not paying the duty. They are at fault with the law. It’s that simple. No problem in seeing that.”

Independent Lawyer view of the BURS v Car Dealers saga

A Gaborone based attorney, Karabo Nkitseng of Ndina Law Firm highlighted to Weekend Post that BURS is right to fight against Tax leakages, but only to an extent that they satisfy themselves that indeed there is tax leakage. He pointed out that the biggest worry is founded on an assumption that the actual tax payer is the customer, the question then should never be about affordability. “There should be no outcry from car dealers’ because they only paying tax over the actual cost and will recover that on the purchase price as the pass on cost to consumers,” attorney Nkitseng stated.

He explained: “I want to believe that these guys are simply saying we buy cars at 500 US dollars even though they know they bought at 2000 US dollars, so the 500 US dollars is simply for computation of customs duty, but when they get to the customer they price on the 2000 US dollars. You can imagine big players at Mogoditshane car dealers doing that with over 1000 cars?’’ he wondered.

“Which means their savings is on the leakage. That is what is happening on the ground. And how much those guys are pocketing. How much is the government losing. So to curb this it should be a joint effort between Competition and Consumer Authority with BURS. That way all stakeholders are being protected.” According to the Senior Counsel, with small individuals doing the business, for example they buy a car for BWP 50 000, then the dealer at Durban gives them a receipt of 30 000 so that 'customer' or owner of the car can pay less tax on it.

“The emphasis of paying tax should be directed mostly to big import car companies as they are seriously evading tax charges,” he highlighted.The reason right now, he explained, why one can negotiate a high price reduction at Mogoditshane is not even competition based, it’s simply the one going below just eating up on his profit margin because of the tax leakage.

He further observed that if one gets an individual buying vehicles and declaring the actual cost then customs duty is properly charged and he goes to Mogoditshane to sell, his price build up is then inclusive of customs duty price component, he is then forced to VAT register in order to recoup the tax component, he then will sell the vehicles to consumers who will be buying with a proper cost reflective price.

“Once the prices are excessive Competition and Consumer Authority would know from the declaration that was made at the time of payment of customs duty. We as customers then just buy thinking we got a better deal,” he said. According to the lawyer, the only fear car dealers are facing is that they are going to lose business. Meanwhile BURS Acting Commissioner General (CG) Segolo Lekau recently confirmed to Weekend Post that a number of businesses especially those importing goods are trespassing the customs law.

“It appears the citizens are working hand in hand with these businessmen and agree to be given falsified payment documents that do not necessarily depict the real price. At the end government is losing a lot of money because we claim less than we should be from SACU,” said the Acting CG. Lekau continued; “this now may force the government to increase tax because she may feel that what she is getting is very low as she will not be getting the actual custom duty and VAT corresponding with the product imported.”

Following the seizure of cars in Mogoditshane, Lekau told this publication that they may now start setting prices for ‘Fong-Kong’ cars. This comes after this publication recently reported that BURS is swimming in a pool of more than P3.3 billion debt emanating from uncollected tax arrears. According to BURS annual report 2018, BURS is failing to manage its debt by effectively and efficiently collecting the arrears to make sure the funds reach the government coffers for development of the country.

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Seretse, Kgosi may walk free

30th October 2020
BAKANG SERETSE

The P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga that has been before court since 2017 seems to be losing its momentum with a high possibility of it being thrown out as defence lawyers unmask incompetency on the part of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP).

The Gaborone High Court this week ruled that the decision by the State to prosecute Justice Zein Kebonang and his twin brother, Sadique Kebonang has been reviewed and set aside. The two brothers have now been cleared of the charges that where laid against them three years ago.

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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