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The Depps Of Despair

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

If like many you were counting the days till your January pay cheque, having  grossly overspent during the festive season, I have to tell you that in the spending stakes you are all amateurs.

A story which hit the headlines this week tells of a profligacy mere mortals can only dream of and puts all your dire financial straits into perspective.  It concerns legendary Hollywood actor Johnny Depp, he of Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland & Edward Scissorhands fame.  Rumoured to be close to bankruptcy,  his managing agents, a company called The Management Group or TMG, has filed suit against the star for unpaid loans and fees. 


In response this mega star has counter-sued with a claim for $25 million (P275 million) against TMG for alleged mishandling of his finances, leading him to the brink of bankruptcy.  The actions come just after Depp agreed a $7 million dollar out-of-court settlement to his ex-wife Amber Heard, after an ugly divorce with tales of ‘drunkenness and cruelty’, to quote from songwriter, Ray Davis.

According to a story appearing in Pakistan Today, Depp’s money troubles arise from his insisting on maintaining a lifestyle which even his film star millions could not bankroll.  The paper writes thus:

“Johnny Depp’s lavish spending — including $3 million to blast author Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes from cannon — led him to the brink of financial ruin, according to an explosive lawsuit filed Tuesday. Over the best part of two decades, the 53-year-old actor has been spending $2 million a month, according to The Management Group (TMG), which is suing the star in Los Angeles for an unpaid loan.

The Pirates of the Caribbean actor is alleged to have forked out $75 million on 14 homes, including a 45-acre (18-hectare) French castle, a chain of Bahaman islands, several Hollywood homes, penthouse lofts in downtown LA and a horse farm in Kentucky. Since 2000, the Oscar-nominated actor has spent $18 million on a yacht, bought 45 luxury cars and shelled out almost $700,000 a month on wine, private planes and a staff of 40 people, according to the lawsuit.

Beverly Hills-based TMG says Depp has accrued more than 200 artworks by Warhol, Klimt and other masters, 70 collectable guitars and a Hollywood memorabilia collection so extensive it is stored in 12 locations.”

Breaking those figures down further, it is said that the star spends $30,000  (P33,000) per month on wine alone – that’s eleven thousand pula per day and we can only assume he is quaffing some very pricey grape juice to run up that sort of bill: add to that a $135,00 monthly account to pay for his travel, always on private planes and $170,000 on round-the-clock security and it’s clear that this is a man who doesn’t stint himself.  According to TMG’s lawyers, the company repeatedly warned Depp of his over-spending but their pleas fell on deaf ears.  

“Over 17 years, The Management Group did everything possible to protect the actor from himself,” TMG attorney Michael Kump said in a statement. “In fact, when Depp’s bank demanded repayment of a multimillion-dollar loan and Depp didn’t have the money, the company loaned it to him so that he would avoid a humiliating financial crisis.”

TMG says it repeatedly warned Depp over his “wanton” overspending, but he responded by rebuking his business managers, increasing his spending and demanding they find some way to pay for it. The firm, fired by Depp last year, says it is owed $4.2 million and was forced to launch foreclosure proceedings on the star’s  property.

Now this page is not and never will be a show biz gossip column and the battle over who owes what to whom, as juicy a tale as it might be, is only related as an example to us all to try and balance our own budgets and live within our means, both personal and corporate.  I’m sure you’ve all seen examples of individuals granted a CEDA loan and the first thing they do is spring for a new designer wardrobe and a luxury German saloon car or SUV out of the loan monies, funds which should have been ploughed into the start-up business.


It has been calculated that any new venture will take at least 6 months to bed down, before it can be assessed as to its future viability; and if, during this crucial growing phase, venture capital is redirected to cover the costs of desirable but unnecessary status symbols, the nascent business is liable to falter and fail.  Purchasing such outward trappings of success can indeed be the very thing that makes future success impossible.

But ask these would-be entrepreneurs why they felt it was necessary to buy that bespoke suit or that showy motor and they will always have an answer.  It’s necessary to look the part, they will tell you.  It impresses future clients, they will insist.  It will reap its own rewards, they will predict. 


But in fact it does none of those things; what it does is make you look like you care more for yourself than taking care of business and looking after your clients; and pretty soon, when the CEDA money runs out, the bank forecloses on the vehicle loan and the landlord issues you with an eviction notice for non-payment of office rent, all you are left with is the clothes you stand up in and which you probably still owe more money on.

Renowned Victorian novelist Charles Dickens succinctly summed up the importance of balancing your budget in his novel David Copperfield when Mr. Micawber gives a young Copperfield this precautionary advice:

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." So heed Micawber’s wise words.  It’s not too late to salvage the festive overspend situation; and though it might mean a period of some small self-denial , you can at least take comfort in the woes of Mr. J Depp, esq. As the saying goes, the bigger they come, the harder they fall.

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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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