High Court of Botswana has this week ruled that the former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, and wife Pinny Morupisi have a case to answer in their ongoing corruption and money laundering case.
The court dismissed the “no case to answer” that Morupisi and his wife had brought before the court. At the centre of the court case is a Toyota Land Cruiser costing almost half a million which the State alleges Morupisi bought from proceeds of crime. Morupisi and wife therefore face charges on two counts of corruption, and money laundering, although, they wanted the court to rule that they have no case.
However, Justice Christopher Mokwadi Gabanagae dismissed Morupisi and wife’s “no case to answer” application implying that the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has a case with the trio which they are answerable for.
“In conclusion I find that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the three accused in respect of the charges they are facing,” Gabanagae stated in the ruling. The Judge further explained that, while Morupisi was Chairman, monies from Botswana Public Officers Pension Funds (BPOPF) to Botswana Opportunities Partnerships (BOP) for investment were diverted to an unintended recipient namely Capital Management Botswana (CMB) Fund 1 from which it was laundered by transfers to CMB Fund 1 Rand account, CMB Fund 1 dollar account, and Manor Squad Services (Pty) Ltd.
“Critically that part of the money was used to buy the Toyota Land Cruiser in question if to be believed, an inference can be drawn that Manor Squad Services was used as a vehicle to conceal that the true giver of the valuable consideration was CMB and that the Morupisi actively, participated in the plan for the benefit of R 7 Group Pty (Ltd), wife Pinny and him,” Gabanagae stated.
The High Court Judge continued: “I feel that the State has led evidence to show that the accused persons had reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting that the property was derived or realised, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly from any confiscation offence. This can be inferred from the way the purported sale agreement was prepared and executed. ”
According to Justice Gabanagae, Morupisi was not only paid from public funds as an employee of the government of Botswana and worked for the government of Botswana as a Director of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) and subsequently as a PSP, but also he was appointed to the board as an employer trustee by virtue of his employment in the public service.
The Judge said based on the definition of a public officer, he finds that Morupisi was a public officer when he allegedly committed these offences; was a nominee of the employer (Botswana government); and his nomination to the BPOPF was an extension to his duties as a public officer. It is clear that BPOPF is a public body where public monies are used, and Morupisi was a public officer when he was Chairman of the Board, he said.
“I take the view that there is evidence of which a reasonable tribunal of fact might convict of the offences charged on count 1 and 2 (corruption),” Judge emphasised. He added that the prosecution has led a circumstantial evidence from which and inference could be drawn from the purported sale of the Land Cruiser was not legitimate but probably proceeds of crime.
The State submitted that it has led evidence that covered all the essential elements of the offences charged. On the other side however the defence submitted that the court should resolve on the basis of evidence before it whether the key and central and exhibit in this case, the Land Cruiser motor vehicle was bought by Morupisi or it was given to him as a valuable consideration.
The defence submitted that the motor vehicle in question was legitimately bought by Morupisi for the benefit of his wife and company. The defence also submitted that the charges against Morupisi and wife should be dismissed on the basis that the State has failed to show that the accused persons had the necessary mens rea expressly required by this section.
“That Mrs Pinny Morupisi did not know anything about the alleged corruption by her husband. The State further submitted that there is no basis upon which this particular accused person together with R7 Group (Pty) Ltd could have been charged,” the defence stated.
Initially the State wanted to call 33 witnesses to prove its case while the defence admitted 23 witnesses and only 7 witnesses gave viva voce evidence. The State in its discretion did not call 3 witnesses as it considers them not critical to prove its case, and at the close of the State case, the defence made a submission of no case to answer – in respect of all the charges preferred against Morupisi and wife. The State of DPP is represented by Priscilla Israel while Busang Manewe sits in for Morupisi and co accused (wife and, R & Group (Pty) Ltd).
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
â€śBotswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,â€ť says Dr. Kwape. He wouldnâ€™t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
â€śWe will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,â€ś he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the â€śGovernment of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.â€ť
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
â€śSADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,â€ť the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceasedâ€™s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrateâ€™s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
â€śThe third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,â€ť Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
â€śYesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,â€ť said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12thÂ of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Astonâ€™s children) are staying.
â€śThato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,â€ť said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
â€śI have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,â€ť Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
â€śPhillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mallâ€ť the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the â€śunknown callerâ€ť and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused,Â Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6thÂ of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
â€śWe spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine â€“ that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,â€ť said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herderâ€™s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,â€ť said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).