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Friday, 19 April 2024

Tsogwane qualifies his role in controversial Trust

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Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Boteti West, has explained his role in the setting up of recreational park in Mokobaxane village in the Central District, which is currently embroiled in a bitter raw over funds.

A series of questionable operational activities within the parameters of the recreational park have left members of the community (especially those directly involved with park) feeling hard done.
Tsogwane, who is also the Chairman of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), through his private secretary, has distanced himself from accusations of possible exploitation of vulnerable youth from the village after he managed to get land through the Village Development Committees (VDC).
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The piece of land in question was later transferred to the ownership of Mokopi Conservation Trust to allow for ease of access to funding and Tsogwane’s names were finally scrapped off the agreement of grant of lease for business plot entered into by Ngwato Land Board and Letlhakeng Sub-Land Board.

According to some of the Trust members Vice President Tsogwane, through his company, Boteti Gateware, which lists him as the Director, proposed to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), in the Ministry of Tourism to fund a Lion and Snake Park project on the disputed land.

It is reported that in their response DWNP suggested that the ownership be changed to a Trust Fund for the communities of both Mokoboxane and Mopipi villages and later funded the project to the sum of P1 million pula. Records seen by this publication show that on December 24th, 2020, DWNP paid the first quarter of the approved funds which was P400, 000. 00.

The Project Coordinator was paid a lump sum of P260, 000. 00 from his P700, 000. 00 request for coordinating the whole project.  According to the records, Botshelo Lawrence Kamodi who is a Zoologist by profession and having worked as the Head of Animal Park at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) was appointed and works with the Office of the Vice President as the project overseer.
Records show that he has already been paid close to half a million Pula in total for his continued work at the Trust.

“If I were to charge for my consultancy work, I would have charged P900, 000.00. What I have been paid is far less than that,” said Kamodi declining to comment on how much he was paid.
“My intention is not to benefit but to give back to the community. I am volunteering my services and some of these works I will just overlook them. I did a lot of work for them including sourcing funding and the two vehicles that were donated. They were acknowledging my hard work,” said Kamodi.

The Project Coordinator, who graduated with a Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Pretoria, confirmed that indeed they were funded with P1 million from Wildlife, P350, 000.00 from Lucara Diamond Company and an additional P 1,500.000.00 from Debswana Mining Company in Orapa.

Commenting on the issue that Mokopi Conservation Trust is currently broke despite all the funds availed to them, Kamodi bluntly told WeekendPost that the Trust has never had money. He said the budget of the project is close to P 6.5 million not P 850, 000.00 as stated in the proposal. “There is no misappropriation of funds. There is transparency, I have to account for that money. Everything is in the books,” said Kamodi.

Kamodi also confirmed the arrival of the two lions which were donated by businessman and former Minister of Agriculture, Christian de Graaff. Indications are that Bammagwato regent, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, was called to intervene in the matter after Dikgosi also differed on the matter.

Contacted for comment Mokoboxane’s Kgosi Matlhare denied existence of disputes between Trust members and the Project Coordinator over the project. “As far as I know, we have no differences as the project is progressing well. All our books are checked regularly and everything is going well. I am an elder in the village therefore I will not be commenting any further, if you are going to quote me I will sue you,” said Kgosi Matlhare.

DWNP in Gaborone declined to answer a questionnaire from WeekendPost and referred this reporter to the Director of Wildlife whose phones rang unanswered. Impeccable sources within the Trust reflecting on the 9th March 2021 report signed by the Chairman alone suggested that the DWNP enquired on why a small project like that could have hired an accountant who comes at a cost.

“We can confirm that the Department is currently looking for answers and they are demanding audited financials. The District Commissioner based in Letlhakane who is reportedly on isolation as per COVID- 19 protocols also called and will be here in two weeks’ time to see the books,” said the source.

“At the moment, Mokopi Conservation Trust is broke despite all the donations and funds availed to us. The Park is incomplete, we were supposed to have a borehole, connected electricity and all Trust members were barred from seeing the Vice President.”

This reporter was also shown a lodge facility which Vice President Slumber Tsogwane is currently developing in Mokoboxane and the project is being built at the same time with the park.
Some within the community have expressed reservation and allege that the two neighbourly projects – the park and lodge – share the same materials and employees,” said a source who spoke on unanimity.

A few weeks ago Mokopi Conservation Trust at an event which was officiated by Vice President Tsogwane, received a donation of two (2) lions from Ghanzi from former Member of Parliament Christian de Graaff.  De Graaff owns Tautona Lodge, a construction company and is also into game farming, although when he left politics in 2019 he insisted he is out of the lion breeding business.

Responding to a WeekendPost questionnaire this week, Private Secretary to the Vice President, Moses Boile said the Vice President supported the Conservation Park at Mokoboxane, which is the brainchild of Kamodi.

Boile also put it on record that the Mokoboxane Conservation Park was financed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks at the amount of P1 million. “Yes, it was financed by Department of Wildlife and National Parks”.

On the appointment of Kamodi, who is the Project Coordinator, Boile said the Vice President did not make any appointments as he is not involved in the administration of the project. Asked if they are aware that Kamodi was paid half a million Pula for his services as the Project Coordinator and or Consultant, Boile said they are not aware.

However Boile confirmed to WeekendPost that the funding from Lucara mine and Debswana Diamond Company but indicated that there were no conditions to the funding, just like any other projects funded elsewhere in the country.

Asked about the construction of a lodge facility belonging to the Vice President in Mokoboxane, Boile said, Vice President Tsogwane started the construction of his campsite 7 years ago, and it is located 11km away from Mokopi Conservation Trust project.[/ihc-hide-content]

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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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