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Friday, 19 April 2024

BDP MPs press Masisi to remove DPP chief from office 

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Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators, including ministers, have reportedly advised President Mokgweetsi Masisi to act against conspirators in the fabricated, falsified and embarrassing P100 billion saga that was settled this week.

The marathon legal battle dating back to 2019 was concluded by Judge Zein Kebonang on Monday this week, where he quashed the charges and acquitted the accused Welheminah Maswabi, otherwise known as “Butterfly.” [ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”1,2,3″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]

She was facing charges of owning a false passport and possession of unexplained property. The state removed initial charges of financing terrorism and money laundering as the case transpired.
The judgment ordered Masisi as the appointing authority to consider removing Directorate on Public Prosecutions (DPP) Director Adv. Stephen Tiroyakgosi from office.

It emerged this week that Masisi’s very own BDP members, following the highly anticipated ruling, want him to act as ordered by Kebonang’s verdict.  “From where I stand, I think he must act because a close look shows that there was never a case. Again this will bring harm to this country. How will international organizations look at us after this? We have been cited as a shining example of democracy, but this takes away that shine,” a minister with a legal background said.

Another minister who could not be named said the verdict could scare away potential investors, desperately needed in this country. “They will think that we can fabricate and even falsify everything, and that could turn them against us.” Masisi, according to Government spokesperson Andrew Sesinyi, will peruse through the judgment to make sense of it before he gets appraisals from DPP on whether or not to remove Tiroyakgosi from the office.

Legal heads have also advised Masisi to act but maintained that he is immune to criminality and might sit on the order as President.  “Refusal to comply with a court order is a criminal offence. But the President is immune from criminal charges until after the presidency. Yes, it is possible not to act, but he might be charged for contempt after office,” he said.

It seems to be a tricky one for the President, who for the better part of his 2019 campaign was chanting the rule of law and accountability for civil servants. “If the President does not act, it will seem he was part of the syndicate, but there is a fear that if he acts, those aggrieved may spill the beans. So heads or tail, it is tough for him. But my humble opinion is he should be brave to act on this one,” said one BDP MP on the backdrop of the judgment this week.

The P100 billion fraud case has attracted international media, especially South Africa, where Butterfly was alleged to have connived with prominent businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe and former President Ian Khama to cause regime change in Botswana in the lead up to the 2019 general elections. Following their acquittal, Butterfly and others are expected to turn up the heat on the Government of Botswana over falsified charges.

“Thes amateurish errors which led to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) being shamed before the courts in these high-profile cases, is damaging to the integrity, reputation, and legacy of the President,” opined another BDP MP who expects President Masisi to rebuke everyone ensnared in the mess. DCEC boss Tymon Katlholo said that as an institution, they would have to act as per the court order to reprimand some of their employees.

“We don’t have an option; failure to comply with the order will be contempt of court. But as to what we will do, it is an internal matter. Everyone cited to act will have to, but I do not know the operations of other entities, but we will have to act,” he said.

Masisi awaits DPP report over Tiroyakgosi

Meanwhile President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi will depend on the advice from the Directorate on Public Prosecution (DPP) jurisdiction for him to consider removing DPP boss Advocate Stephen Tiroyakgosi from office. Delivering a verdict this week in a marathon yet damaging case of a stolen P100 billion, Judge Zein Kebonang said President as the appointing authority to consider his removal from office of the DPP.

The ruling came after it surfaced that all the charges laid against the accused, Welheminah Maswabi, were fabricated and falsified. Asked if the appointing authority will act on the court order, Government spokesperson Andrew Sesinyi explained that Masisi would only act depending on the report from DPP.

“The Directorate of Prosecution has full jurisdiction to address your inquiries, including if they so wish, any further actions the Oversight Institution may be contemplating,” Sesinyi said before adding: “The Appointing Authority acts on assessment and advice from the various jurisdictions therein referred to by the judgment. The DPP remains answerable within his jurisdiction, and so do other Oversight Institution.”

Maswabi, a DIS agent codenamed ‘Butterfly,’ faced a plethora of charges, including possession of unexplained property and false declaration for a passport.  However, following the presentation of evidence that all the charges against her were fabricated, Judge Kebonang declared the allegations in the charge sheet dated 17th October 2019, and the amended one dated 18th November 2020 against Maswabi fabricated and outright false.

However, law and international relations experts believe Masisi should crack the whip as the ruling compromises his legacy. “Schoolboy errors by the Masisi administration, which led to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and other institutions suffering humiliation before the courts of law in high-profile cases, is damaging the integrity, reputation, and legacy of President Mokgweetsi Masisi,” said one legal guru.

Before this week’s judgment, DPP had suffered another humiliation after being forced to withdraw a charge of financing terrorism against Maswabi. The P100 billion fraud case has attracted international media, especially South Africa, where Butterfly was alleged to have connived with prominent businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe and former President Ian Khama to cause regime change in Botswana in the lead up to the 2019 general elections. Butterfly is only left with charges of failing to account for property in her possession and false declaration of passports.

Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) chief Tymon Katlholo said they would have to act per the court order. The DCEC chief, who was re-appointed to office last year, has consistently dismissed the case as frivolous and has no prospects of success in court.

Katholo has been called to take disciplinary action against lead Investigator Jako Hubona. Further, it has been ordered to do the same on Priscillah Israel as their immediate supervisor. “We have no option but to act,” Katlholo said. DPP was yet to file for an appeal at the time of going to print, let alone grant this publication an interview despite numerous attempts. Law scholars, however, said the matter is not appealable.

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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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