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Court ruling threatens DIS case against Israeli firm

Bakang Seretse

The recent High Court ruling by Justice Godfrey Radijeng, which dismissed with costs the application for forfeiture to the government several properties that belong to Bakang Seretse and others, is likely to have a bearing on another related case in which an Israeli company, Dignia System, is suing the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

Dignia is seeking an order compelling the DIS and the Attorney General (defendants) to accept delivery of the remainder of the orders under the contract and pay them USD 11 320 000.00 (about P123 million).

The Dignia contract case, pending before the courts, is at the centre of the NPF case because NPF funds were used to finance the contract. The DPP director, Stephen Tiroyakgosi, in the just-ended case, claimed that the globular amount of P230 Million having been disbursed in an irregular manner or as an illegal transaction painted every subsequent transaction flowing from it with the same brush of illegality and subsequently as proceeds of crime.

The state has suspended the Dignia contract because it was invalid as the tender, in this case, was not floated in terms of the enabling statute. Consequently, the state says there is no need for the DIS to pay the amount claimed or any part thereof.

According to the state, the NPF money was requested by the former director-general of Intelligence Services, Isaac Kgosi, to construct petroleum facilities and was to be received from the Fund manager, Kgori Capital. But surprisingly, P230 million was disbursed from the Fund account held with Stanbic Bank Botswana to an account held by Khulaco PTY LTD, a private person’s account at a capital bank at the instruction of Kgosi-hence the state alleging that irregularities and illegalities marred the processes.

A substantial amount of the money was transferred on 21 November 2017 to Dignia System Limited to a bank in Israel. The state in the just-ended Bakang Seretse matter said that the investigations regarding this amount are ongoing due to international cooperation, further saying that the process is slow and takes more time than ordinarily expected.

“It would be proper to have the amount remain in restraint pending the conclusion of the investigation,” said the state referring to the Dignia matter.

Tiroyakgosi says there was a departure or deviation in the administration and expenditure of the National Petroleum Fund that was not authorised by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning. Subsequent transactions, they argued, connected to several possible offences under the penal Code, more particularly, Sections 129 and 132 thereof on breach of trust and fraud and disobedience of statutory duties respectfully, and the further possible violation of the Corruption and Economic Crime Act-conflict of interest contrary to section 31 and cheating public revenue as well as criminal activities relating to money laundering under Section 47 of PICA.

The DISS has suspended the Dignia System contract arguing that it was invalid as the methodology used in the transaction does not conform with provisions of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board, which a procuring and disposing entity should follow.-this rendering the alleged contract unlawful and therefore of no force and effect.

But Dignia is having none of it and wants to deliver the outstanding deliverables to the contract, which were three Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and their accessories, part of the Special Forces equipment and training.

“The unmanned aerial vehicles or drones their accessories and the remainder of the Special Forces equipment are ready for delivery and plaintiff is ready to conduct the associated training,” read part of the papers. Dignia states that on or around 21 November 2017, DIS made payment of half the contract price, leaving a balance of USD 11320 0000.00, which remains due, owing, and payable.

“Such payment was made through a company called Khulaco Management Services which is a company approved by the second defendant and or the Botswana Government to make payment in respect of the project,” Dignia stated.

How the current ruling is likely to jeopardize the DIS case…

The DPP has requested that for the amount transferred on 12 November 2017 to Dignia, the court place the said property in continuing restraint under Section 43 (5) (b) of PICA.

However, Justice Radijeng has thrown out the application made by the state that the globular amount of P230 Million having been disbursed in an irregular manner or as an illegal transaction painted every subsequent transaction flowing from it with the same brush of illegality and subsequently as proceeds of crime. His views are that the state failed to prove its case and substantiate it with evidence or proof.

“The offence of money laundering requires proof or establishment that the person who engages in a transaction or receives such property knows, suspects, or has reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting that the property is derived or realised in whole or in part, directly or indirectly from a confiscation offence. I have found in my assessment of the facts of this case that the respondents commit no offence as interested parties and that therefore the properties are not proceeds or instruments of crime-related activities,” he said in his ruling.

Legal pundits say the ruling has persuasive value towards the pending P123 DISS-Dignia case, which the state describes as an act of criminality. The verdict effectively denies that Dignia was improperly or corruptly engaged. The current judgement does not bind the other court, but it has persuasive value as courts generally avoid issuing contradictory rulings.

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Mental health concern amid COVID-19 pandemic 

24th September 2021
Mental Health

With the advent of COVID-19, mental health and psychosocial has become a major concern around the world. There is   significant increase in the rates of stress, anxiety and depression globally.

In creating awareness and support on mental health and psychosocial support, the Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, through the Department of Social Protection (DSP) hosted a virtual regional mental health and Psychosocial Support Forum (MHPSS).

The MHPSS Forum brings together stakeholders from different sectors providing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support services particularly to children, youth, families and the workforce, as well as Academia, International Cooperating Partners, Community Implementing Partners and the media.

It aims to facilitate learning, information exchange and advocacy to promote mainstreaming of Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (PSS) into policies, programmes, services and funding priorities for children and youth in Botswana.

The event is a partnership between The Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, through the Department of Social Protection (DSP), and the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), with Project Concern International Botswana (PCI) and Marang Child Care Network Trust (MCCNT).

The event is held every two years, and Botswana started hosting the Forum in 2014. The theme for this year is ‘Innovate, Integrate, Thrive,’ which prompts us to find new ways to survive the COVID-19 pandemic which we can mainstream into our daily activities.

The Northern Regional Forum in Mahalapye was held on 17-19 August 2021 while the Southern Regional Forum  in  Ghanzi, was  from 21-23 September 2021. Findings from both regions will be presented at the National Forum to be held in Kasane on 12-14 October 2021. The event is held in collaboration with local authorities in each region.

The event is structured in this manner: The first day is a Special Session for Children, where children in the region will talk about the challenges they face that affect their mental health, how they cope and what they think can be done to support them.

The second day is the official opening where the lead ministry gives a keynote address, and presentations from service providers in the region. The third and last day is abstract presentations from different speakers on thematic areas under the theme.

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GMES & Africa Southern Africa to hold a Regional Stakeholder Workshop on Earth Observation Technologies

24th September 2021
GMESAfrica

The Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will hold a Hybrid GMES and Africa Regional workshop from 27 – 29 September 2021, at Safari Hotel in Windhoek, Namibia.

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) Initiative is a programme formed out of mutual cooperation between Africa and Europe with a focus on Earth Observation (EO) systems.

It was formed to respond to the global need to manage the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security by providing information to policymakers, scientists, private sector and the public. GMES and Africa aims to promote development of local capacities, institutional, human and technical resources for access to and exploitation of Earth Observation (EO) based services on an operational basis for sustainable development in Africa.

In its first phase, GMES has funded 13 consortiums in Africa. In Southern African, SASSCAL-led consortia is implementing the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Service for Transboundary Basins in Southern Africa (WeMAST) Project while CSIR is leading the Marine and Coastal Operations for Southern Africa (MARCO[1]South). SASSCAL Members of the consortium include the University of Botswana, University of Zambia, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of the Western Cape and Midlands State University, South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) of Zambia.

CSIR led consortium includes ABALOBI, Benguela Current Convention, Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, National Sea Rescue Institute, University of Dar Es Salaam, University of Eduardo Mondlane and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association).

The workshop will also provide an opportunity to promote and encourage mutual exchanges in terms of sharing best practices, knowledge and experiences as well as allow for the exchange of information and knowledge on new and innovative Earth Observation technologies developed under the programmes and their alignment with the region’s sustainable development strategies.

The workshop will also reveal trends in the use of earth observation data to monitor and assess wetland conditions, threats to sustainable utilisation of wetland resources as well as updating stakeholders on how climate change variability and drought is continually affecting Sub-Saharan Africa’s surface water resources.

The workshop’s envisaged outcomes will be to ensure shared knowledge and understanding of the new and innovative Earth Observation technologies, and their application to society. Expected to visit is a broader pool of international delegates from the two continents (Europe and Africa) both physically and virtual.

This includes the member countries policy makers, line ministers from the SADC countries, public and private sector stakeholders, implementers, Basin Commissions, researchers, and any other stakeholders whose activities are related to coastal areas, rivers, and their ecosystems.

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Vendors ready for the Tobacco Control Bill

21st September 2021
Vendors

Some vendors have been misled
Vendors thrive on households goods and fresh produce

Despite the previous false allegations that the Tobacco Control Bill will lead to several 20 000 vendors across the country losing their jobs, several local vendors have expressed that they are ready for the bill and because vendors sell mostly household goods

“This is something that we openly accept and receive as street vendors, the problem is some of our counterparts were misled and made to believe that we will not be allowed to sell cigarettes on our stalls.

Some of us got to understand that the bill states that we have to be licensed to sell cigarettes, we are not supposed to sell them to children under the age of 18 years of age and eliminating the selling of single sticks. We understand that this agenda is meant to develop a healthy nation but not take us down,” said Mbimbi Tau a vendor who operates from Mogoditshane.

The Tobacco Control Bill has been passed in several countries and street vendors are operating properly without any challenges faced. Tau further mentioned that there is no way that the Tobacco Control Bill will affect their business operations, all they have to do as vendors are to get the required documentation and do what the bill requires.

Another vendor Busani Selalame who operates from Gaborone Bonnington North was not shy to express his support towards the Tobacco Control Bill, “the problem is that some people within our sector have been misled and now they think that the bill is meant to take our operations down and completely stop selling cigarettes.

I support the fact that we are not supposed to sell cigarettes to children who are under the age of 18 years of age this has always been wrong, as parents we should be cautious of such and ensure that our children are disassociated with cigarettes,” said Selalame.

The Tobacco Control Bill prohibits advertising, promotion and sponsorship by the tobacco industry to prevent messages, cues, and other inducements to begin using tobacco, especially among the youth, to reassure users to continue their use, or that otherwise undermine quitting.

Renowned economist Bakang Ntshingane is of the view that since vendors sell household goods and fresh produce they are likely to keep on making profits despite what the Tobacco Control Bill comes with. He further stated that the Tobacco Control Bill will not be of harm on the local economy since the country does not manufacture or produce any tobacco related products.

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