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Friday, 19 April 2024

DPP, DCEC tussle for prosecution powers

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There is a simmering tension and somehow a cold war between two sister organisations; Directorate on Public Prosecution (DPP) and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) with regards to prosecuting powers.

The animosity comes from a truck load of cases that are currently pilling up at DPP offices across the country, with the prosecuting authority is struggling to deal with the backlog. This tension was also sparked by the Criminal Justice Forum which advised that there should be an introduction of mutual reinforcing processes between the police, DCEC and the DPP. This was to include cases under investigation and those ready for prosecution.

Currently there are 7200 dockets before the DPP awaiting prosecution while Botswana Police’s large stations also have thousands of dockets waiting for the same. The backlog of cases has coerced the investigating agency, DCEC to take interest in prosecuting the criminals to assist its sisters, of which DPP is strongly against.

“The DCEC has always been concerned about the slow disposal of corruption cases at court, although this is not a unilateral effect, it dents the public perception on the effectiveness of the DCEC even though the DCEC does not prosecute its cases,” DCEC Public Relation Officer, Lentswe Motshoganetsi told WeekendPost this week. “Therefore it is essential that the DCEC be given prosecutorial powers in order to address this problem.”

The DCEC spokesperson contends that though the crime busting agency has limited resources in terms of manpower and technical capacity, Government continues to assist whenever requirements arise in order to capacitate the DCEC. “You may realise that there are new units that are being institutionalised at the DCEC such as the Anti-Money Laundering Unit. It is our commitment therefore that once the prosecutorial function has been extended to the DCEC, posts will be sourced from Government to augment the current number of attorneys at the DCEC,” he said.

Currently the DCEC has close to 10 lawyers working with the investigations division on cases, according to Motshoganetsi. The DCEC and DPP clash over prosecution is exacerbated by the fact the two institutions often hold different view on cases that the former have investigated. DPP sometimes refuses to prosecute some cases on the basis that the cases were not properly investigated casting doubts on DCEC ability to thoroughly investigate cases, especially those involving high profile figures.

“The issue of files moving between the DCEC and the DPP is a usual practice. To reduce the delay caused by that, the DCEC has adopted a prosecution led investigation; whereby investigations are done with constant advice form an officer from the Legal Service Division. This has tremendously improved the quality of investigations and improved the turnaround time on investigations,” Motshoganetsi said.

“The DCEC has seasoned investigators who are specialists in different fields such as engineering, finance and accounting, criminal justice, law, forensics etc. We continue to recruit specialists in different disciplines as per the dictates of anti-corruption and sound investigations.”
DCEC spokesperson however believes that there is a mutual relationship between the DCEC and the DPP as there are instances were officers from the two agencies form task forces in order to expedite investigations.

“It is also worth noting that in December 2019 the two agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding which focused on improving service delivery by the two agencies. It is our belief as the DCEC that going forward, this MOU will assist in enhancing the investigation and prosecution of corruption matters.”

DPP WANTS TO BE SOLE PROSECUTING AGENCY

Despite the DCEC expressing desire to have prosecuting powers, the DPP is having none of it as it believes it will be detrimental to people who are subjected to investigations. “We want to protect Batswana from intrusive organisations and possible malicious prosecution,” DPP Director Stephen Tiroyakgosi told WeekendPost this week. A keen interest from DCEC to institute legal proceedings against perpetrators can cause conflicts between the two institutions, argues Tiroyakgosi.

“Where we come from, you cannot be a judge on your own matter because you are most likely to be clouded by your organisational demands and therefore prosecution needs a sober mind,” he said in an interview. The Director who joined DPP in 2017 is playing down reports that there could be a toxic working relationship between his organisation and DCEC and maintained that everyone should remain in their lanes.  More often than not, Tiroyakgosi says, his office has rejected DCEC a number of cases when the DPP felt that the evidence brought by the investigating arm is not concrete enough.

“If we disagree we close the matter or go for re-investigation because we don’t want to recklessly prosecute people. We can be sued for malicious prosecution and we want to be sufficient in our job.” However, according to informants, this could be what is frustrating the crime busting agency, hence their desire to prosecute their own cases. As per Tiroyakgosi’s admission, a case sometimes has to be closed if the DPP disagrees with the evidence that is brought before them and the DCEC also insist that the evidence is enough for prosecution.

Asked why there are so many backlog cases, Tiroyakgosi laments about lack of resources in his office. “Currently, we need an extra 150 prosecutors to push the cases and remember if we hire a prosecutor we also have to employ other support staff and it is costly,” he said.
DPP has around 200 prosecutors across the country, a number which is not enough to deal with the demands of the job.  DPP Director is however convinced that having one organisation as the prosecuting office is the best model to protect the nation from subjective trials.

 “I know at times the DCEC might be frustrated by us being the sole prosecutors because they may feel they have done the best in investigations, but like I said you cannot be a judge in your own matter,” he said. DPP’s success according to its Director is mostly on winning cases and for them to achieve that, they liaise with investigating agencies on what kind of evidence is key for government to win a case. “Even the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) we do advise. Of course they give intelligence leads, but we have advised them not to only give leads but there should be something from that so that when others investigate there is indeed something.”  

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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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