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One Born Every Minute

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLCK-N-WHITE

Now in case you’re not up with the current exchange rate of dollars to pula, it’s about 10 to 1.  So a monthly salary of US $3000 would be P30k, not bad for a nanny, I’m sure you’d agree.  Throw in the free accommodation and free food and it’s a dream job, especially as the only qualifications appear to be strong religious convictions, creed not specified. 

It almost sounds too good to be true and thereby hangs a tale.  If anything in life sounds too good to be true then you can bet your bottom dollar (or in this case, three thousand of them per month) that is almost certainly is.

There has to be a scam or a catch or both but the problem is that the world is full of gullible souls who will be sucked into the con and before they know it, they’re actually out of pocket, in this case out of a job (well, face it, they were never actually in one) and the con-men or con-persons have succeeded in their scam.

But you might think, hang on, what could possible go wrong?  You apply for the job and if you land it, your employment ship has really come in – 3 grand a month in greenbacks for a bit of babysitting.  If not, it’s back to the sits vacancy columns and websites and you’ve lost nothing but a bit of time and effort.  But of course scams don’t work like that.  If you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors, they’re designed to suck you in, butter you up, then reel you in, hook line and sinker. 

And during the buttering up phase, you feel so flattered, so lucky, so blessed you’re willing to do anything not to mess up this opportunity of a lifetime.  And the first thing you learn is that the job is not here in Botswana but over in the United States, the land of opportunity where streets are paved with gold – more good news.  Then they tell you that they’re not actually living there themselves but are in the process of immigrating so they’d like you to go ahead and set up house for them. 

They will pay for your flight and other expenses, they’ll arrange your visa but for that there will be a small charge.  And you think, fair enough.  What’s a small capital outlay upfront compared to the luxury lifestyle ahead?  But of course, if there never was a job, there never can be a visa. 

You will send the money and then be told that a problem with the paperwork has cropped up and you will need to pay a bit extra and then a bit extra and this will go for as long as they think they can keep on conning you, then one day, long after you’ve started having nagging doubts and suspicions but have brushed them aside, all correspondence will suddenly cease. 

They’re one step ahead of you again and they’ve worked out that you’re running out of money and starting to raise objections.  You are no longer the milk cow you were at the start so they drop you like a hot potato and move on to the next sucker.  And of course there’s a good chance they’ve been juggling multiple victims all along, each one of them forking out money for non-existent permits and paperwork for a non-existent job babysitting a non-existent infant. 

And as always in these scams there’s an early clue in the text.  The first line reads ‘I am my wife’ when it should have read ‘I and my wife’.  See, an English-speaking person wouldn’t make such a silly mistake but a conman fluent in Pidgin English and qualified in ripping off the gullible most certainly would.

And of course this sort of thing doesn’t just apply to the employment market.  A far more lucrative target is that of the lovelorn and lonely.  They are way more vulnerable and way more desperate.  Week after week some bleeding heart tale crops up of a scammed woman who has given over a small fortune to someone she’s only ever chatted to over the internet, someone who is never who he pretended to be and who promised her his undying love…..at a price. 

Or a scammed guy who thinks the Filipino beauty in the picture is really smitten by a punchy, middle-aged sad-do with a laptop and a bit of money in the bank.  And again it’s always on a drip-feed basis, money first before visas and a passport.  Then it will be for an airfare so he/she can finally make the trip to meet their beloved in the flesh. 

Only of course they will never get on the plane because they are either not who they claim to be in the first place or they are taking candy from these overgrown babies and this is how they make a living.  And before they’re completely done with them, they’ll also have asked for money for clothes/cosmetic surgery/medical bills for them or their nearest and dearest – the list is endless, even though the victims’ resources may not be. 

Take this sorry tale which appeared in this week’s papers.  An Australian woman named Jan Marshall has revealed how she handed over US$ 350k to what she believed to be an Englishman named Eamon Donegal Dublhlainn (seriously?), whom she met on the dating site ‘Plenty of Fish’ but who turned out to be, surprise, surprise, a group of Nigerian fraudsters.  She was even provided with pictures of the fictitious Mr. D but again, unsurprisingly they emailed but whenever they were supposed to video chat there was always a problem. 

Mr. D first told her he was an engineer working in the States then when their ‘relationship’ began to get serious he told her he had taken a contract in Dubai and from there it would be a short hop to come and visit her in Oz. 

But curiously he found himself having to pay unexpected taxes for which he didn’t have the readies – luckily she did.  Then he was robbed of the monies she sent and needed some more.  Then it was money for building materials, all the while telling her that these payments were only loans, and that he had funds but he was just temporarily unable to access them.  And she paid and paid and paid, despite her more astute friends hearing alarm bells going off and trying to warn her.

Sadly there are women like Jan everywhere.  It’s estimated that in Australia alone, victims are conned out of some US$30m every year, most of which ends up in Nigeria, Eastern Europe and the Philippines.   And there are unemployed hopefuls too who think it’s a fair trade paying for a work permit in return for the job of a lifetime.   Well, they say there’s one born every minute – just make sure it isn’t you.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at  www.hrmc.co.bw

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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