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Debswana institutes forensic probe in lawsuit relating to former MD

The Late and Former Debswana Managing Director: Albert Milton

Debswana Diamond Company has engaged an independent forensic investigation firm following suspension of key personnel in the organisation amid a reported P110 million outstanding bill for services rendered.

While Debswana has denied liability for the bill, or having any agreement, the company this week confirmed to WeekendPost that broad-based investigations have been instituted at the organisation.

So far, Senior Human Resource Manager, Head of Security and his deputy have been suspended. However sources have indicated that more people have been involved in the matter and were aware of the services offered by Infotrac (Pty) Ltd.

According to information passed on to this publication, most services offered to Debswana by Infotrac have been of covert nature. It is also apparent that Infotrac has serviced Debswana for several years.

In the past, Infotrac reportedly supplied spying security equipment to the organisation. However, change of guard at the organisation could have led to cut of ties between the two parties, or lack of an understanding.

Debswana is currently under the tutelage of Lynette Armstrong, on interim basis, following the passing of Albert Milton, the man at the centre of the debacle.

Infotrac claims it was engaged by Debswana, to determine among others the suitability of the late and former Managing Director Albert Milton to be appointed to the post.

The service was occasioned by ploy by some in the organisation to try to deny Milton the opportunity to be appointed to the top post on the basis that he was not suitable for the post for various reasons relating to his integrity.

After being briefed by some in the echelons of power at Debswana, Infotrac was given a scope of work in which it was expected to deliver its findings.

The findings were however favourable to Milton, resulting in his appointment as Debswana boss, succeeding Balisi Bonyongo in December 2018.

According to court documents, there was an oral contract between Debswana and Infotrac to provide other services. The nature of the services were however not specified in the documents.

Following Debswana’s refusal to pay the bill, Infotrac dragged the matter to court to seek relief because it was convinced that it was being bullied by the mining giant. There are fears that Infotrac will reveal a lot of shocking information about Debswana operations in order to prove its track record with Debswana.

However, Debswana has chosen to conduct its own investigation with relation to its liability in the said bill. “There are target dates for the completion of the investigation which we are not at liberty to share, however, the investigation is being conducted as expeditiously as the current circumstances permit,” Rachael Mothibatsela, Debswana Head of Corporate Affairs told WeekendPost this week.

“Because of the nature of the investigation, Debswana cannot share details of the investigation, save to say that the investigation is a broad-based one and is being conducted by an independent forensic investigation firm. In addition, the details of the investigation cannot be shared in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation process.”

Debswana declined to comment on an inquiry on the supposed involvement of other staff members, who despite suspension of three others, were not side-lined. WeekendPost is privy that despite only three being suspended, there were seven heads of department involved in the matter, including Head of Group Legal (name withheld).

“If there are any more officers who are alleged to have been involved in the matter then the forensic investigation will reveal that. The investigation into the allegations made are at an extremely sensitive stage and any information released to any third party whosoever, could seriously jeopardise the investigations and Debswana’s efforts at getting to the truth,” Mothibatsela said.

This publication also inquired on a memo sent by Debswana to staff following the suspension of a trio in senior management in which the organisation portrayed the matter to have been a case of a whistle-blower despite management knowing it was a claimant who is now suing the organisation.

In response Mothibatsela said: “Debswana cannot be drawn into discussing its internal engagements with employees, suffice to say that there has not been a misrepresentation and we can confirm that an investigation is being conducted by an independent forensic investigator.

The investigation has been commissioned as a consequence of, inter alia, Debswana’s internal policies on corporate governance to investigate all issues pertaining to the subject matter of the investigation.”

In the court documents, Infotrac seeks to be paid P110 million for services rendered as well as 10 percent interest rate from date of breach to date of full and final reach.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022
BPF

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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BDF Welfare Fund reformed

28th June 2022
BDF Commander: Lt General Placid Segokgo

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has closed its 15 year old Welfare Fund to comply with the new standards set by the Financial Intelligence and Regulatory Authority (FIA) and the Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NBFIRA).

The BDF has now transitioned its operations to a Dikwata SACCOS, which is licensed by the FIA. The main objective of the Trust Fund was to provide its members with financial assistance and to improve the welfare of its members. It was also established to allow its members to save money. The organization also wanted to utilize the funds to improve the welfare of its members.

In 2018, Parliament enacted the Trust Property Control Act, which made it mandatory for all existing trusts to re-register with the High Court. The BDF Welfare Trust Fund was one of the first organizations to submit its application for re-registration. Following the assessment of its application, the High Court agreed that the Trust Fund should be transitioned to comply with the Act.

According to Colonel Ramhitshana, in line with the Notarial Deed of Trust, the Trust Fund is set up for the benefit of the beneficiaries and imposes obligations on the beneficiaries to contribute to the Trust. According to the Act, beneficiaries are not obliged to contribute to the Trust.

This now suggested a major shift from the fundamental objectives of the collective and any deviation would have meant that the Trust Fund should immediately be dissolved. “In his reading of the Notarial Deed the Master was of the opinion that the Trustees are obliged to provide a Bond of Security,” says Ramhitshana.

The Master’s interpretation of the Notarial Deed meant that the members would have to provide a bond of security in order to retain their elected trustees. This would have meant that no one would be willing to take on the role of trustees without having to put up a bond.

“Because of the aforementioned, the Trust Fund could not continue to exist under that model. Without the much needed contributions, the Trust Fund would cease to operate. It therefore called for the Board of Trustees to embark on a countrywide consultation with members to share with them the challenges faced and seek advice on the way forward.

During these engagements, it was clear that members strongly believed in the continuation of the spirit of togetherness that has been exhibited by the collective that has served them so well over the years. During these interactions, members were very amenable to the idea of forming a Co-Operative Society in order to be compliant with the law.

On this note, the process to register Dikwata SACCOS was conceived as it was deemed to be the right type of model that would continue representing the interests of members.” Following the formation of Dikwata SACCOS, it is expected that the members’ assets will be transferred to the Co-Operative Society, in order to continue representing the interests of its members.

These include the members’ savings, loans, and collective education. Colonel Ramhitshana also noted that the members would continue to be engaged with the Co-Operative Society to learn more about its operations. The Trust Fund has already outsourced its administrative services to a company known as Minet Botswana, which is a professional fund administrator.

The Trust Fund is also regularly audited by Grant Thornton, as required by its Notarial Deed. The annual general meetings of the members are also held as per the Notarial Deed. The BDF Welfare Trust Fund was registered in the Deeds Office of Botswana in 2007 by members of the Botswana Defence Force.

The founding members consisted of members in Active Service, Non-Uniformed members and Retired personnel in their personal/private capacity. Since its inception, the Trust Fund has been operating under a Board of Trustees elected by its members in accordance with the Notarial Deed of Trust, which has been the governing document for the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund was registered with the Non-Bank Financial Regulatory authority.

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Secure land title a milestone – Masisi

28th June 2022
SECURE LAND TITLE LAUNCH

This week saw President Mokgweetsi Masisi and First Lady Neo Masisi receiving their first Secure Land Title (SLT) certificate from Ngwaketse Land Board. A huge milestone in Botswana’s Land Sector.

The new certificate replaces the old Customary Land Grand certificate which has been issued by Land Boards since 1970 following their establishment. When officiating at the launch of the SLT in Moshupa, Masisi highlighted; “My Government recognizes robust and transparent Land Administration as a tool for advancing economic development.

We are confident that these land reforms we are implementing will unlock the true potential and economic value of Tribal Land.”  He went on to state that “the reforms include: The review and implementation of the National Land Policy of 2015 as amended in 2019; Tribal Land Act of 2018; and, Deeds Registry (Amendment) Act of 2017.”

The event marked the completion of a journey that started in 2009 with a partner driven cooperation with the Kingdom of Sweden, called improvement of the Land Administration Procedures, Capacity and System (LAPCAS) Programme. The programme objectives center around ensuring successful social and economic development of the nation of Botswana based on efficient, effective and transparent Land Administration.

Masisi proudly mentioned that the new certificate was a realization of the 2019 BDP manifesto. He said; “Consistent with the Botswana Democratic Party 2019 election manifesto, we remain undeterred to fulfil our pledge to change the current land tenure system under the tribal land grant that limits and affords the majority of Batswana only use rights.

We will neither slumber nor sleep, until comprehensive legislative and policy review confers rightful ownership over pieces of land that Batswana own, according them owners’ rights to such land, which they may use as security to unlock opportunities”.

Land Boards are now obliged to register grants at Deeds Registry when they allocate land for both residential and business uses. This means that Land Boards will bear the cost of surveying and submitting to Deeds Registry, drastically reducing costs incurred by the citizen.

Masisi emphasized that Batswana will now directly use the Secure Land Title as security or collateral to access financial assistance from financial institutions. Thus, unlocking the economic potential of the Tribal Land.

In line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution; the reforms mentioned, are anchored into a multi-platform computer system called the Land information System (LIS). It is in this system where all land delivery processes take place until the final printing of the SLT at Deeds Registry. Masisi also challenged those that will be administering the associated IT support services and infrastructure to make “System e Down” a thing of the past.

When giving a historical background on the Land Management Sector. Masisi highlighted that it went through a number of stages. He said “in the pre-colonial era, we had a single land tenure managed by Dikgosi and we kept no land records. During Protectorate years, three tenure system was introduced. However, Tribal Land remained unregistrable while Freehold and State Land then known as Crown Land were registered in the Deeds Office located in Mafikeng by then.”

He jogged the memory of attendees stating that at independence, Botswana maintained the three-tenure system and in 1970, Land Boards were established through the Tribal Land Act of 1968 and Land Boards took over the management of Tribal Land.

Customary Land Grants still remained unregistrable and one had to convert their Customary Grant to Common Law Lease if they want to register at Deeds. The keeping of records remained a challenge due to lack of robust records management tools and systems.

These challenges are said to have been compounded by the fact that Land boards continued to allocate un-surveyed land and the Deeds Registry did not recognize Customary Land Grants as registrable rights. The manner in which Tribal Land was managed gave the impression that Tribal Land Grants, in particular Customary Land Grants were inferior to Freehold and State Land tenures.

Kgosi Donald Kgabosetso II Mosielele, raised a concern that the Tribal land boards takes delay in allocating land thus leading to mushrooming of squatters. In response the Minister of Lands and Water Affairs Dr. Kefentse Mzwinila said to accelerate the process of land allocations, the Ministry is still combing through waiting lists after the realization that most people who are on the list already have land which goes against their policy of allocating 1 person with at least 1 plot in tribal land and 1 plot in state land.

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