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P100 billion case: RSA judge says it is falsehood 

Welheminah Mphoeng Maswabi codename 'Butterfly'

A South African judge, Justice Dennis Davis, long found that the P100 billion looting case was based on falsehoods. His findings, though not publicized, were made before Gaborone High Court Judge Dr. Zein Kebonang arrived at the same conclusion in a related case in which suspended intelligence officer Welheminah Mphoeng Maswabi codenamed ‘Butterfly’ was sought for her charges to be quashed. Maswabi faced terrorism financing, money laundering, and corruption charges. Judge Kebonang found that the charges were fabricated. 

South African businesswoman, Bridgette Motsepe who is implicated alongside former President Ian Khama and former Director of Directorate of Intelligence and Services (DIS), Isaac Kgosi, enlisted the services of Justice Davis, who has retired from the bench and currently consults for South African Revenue Services to offer a legal opinion in a related case in which the Directorate of Public Prosecutions through Afriforum brought an application before the Gauteng High Court to compel the South African government to provide necessary information and assistance in terms of a Mutual Legal Assistance based on allegations money laundering. He also offered another legal opinion in a case in which she is suing Botswana Government for defamation.

In the first legal opinion, dated 26 June 2021, Davis explained that he had been instructed that the Botswana State’s case appeared to be that former President and Motsepe intended to use those funds to generate opposition against the current President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Davis further explained that “Although the politics appear to dominate the entire saga, this opinion is focused on one issue. It appears that the Afriforum application is designed to obtain mutual assistance concerning the involvement in the secreting of funds out of Botswana in breach of the relevant Botswana law, and the Ambassador (Motsepe) is implicated therein.”

He said that while this opinion is concerned solely with the allegations against Motsepe and thus is not designed to express any view on the prosecution of Maswabi, of necessity, it is required to traverse some of the relevant issues concerning the case.  Davis said the allegations against Motsepe begin with the supposed role played by Mahktota Bank, which is allegedly a financial institution located in Jarkata, Indonesia.

Davis found that it has no internet presence besides its site, its blog, and other websites that state it exists.  “The website itself does not list its license number nor the link for its banking filing. Further, a series of publicly available communications suggest nothing more than a front for financial scams. The dubious role of Mahkota bank is reflected in the fact that in records maintained by the Indonesian Financial Services Authority and the Indonesian Central Securities Depository, there is no entity of that kind that is authorised to act as a financial institution in India,” said Davis.

He said on its own this might not be conclusive evidence to justify my conclusion. However, most certainly, it should place any lawyer acting according to the standard of a reasonable practitioner on their guard.

“Mr. Hubona ((Jako Hubona, the investigating officer in the case) then alleges that on 15 February 2019, Mr. Khrisna transferred USD 48 million from Mahkota Bank to an account number 200904299 held at the Alberton branch of Standard Bank of South Africa. It is further alleged that these funds were cleared by the South African Reserve Bank on 21 February 2019,” said Davis. However, he said, on 13 August 2020, the South African Reserve bank refuted the existence of this alleged transfer in a letter that was addressed to Motsepe via her attorney Dr. Dario Milo.

“This view has been confirmed to me by Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo. I have also confirmed with Mr. Reggie Reatile, a member of the Botswanan Parliament who asked the Governor of the Bank of Botswana questions about whether funds had flowed out of Botswana and which would substantiate the allegations that were made. He confirmed that the Governor refuted any such claims as baseless,” said Davis.

He added that “If any further justification is required for the conclusion that any case which has been brought has been predicated not on legal but on exclusively political grounds, then that can be found by an examination of the affidavit written and signed by Mr. Hubona.” According to Davis, it is difficult to find an affidavit that lacks legal substance, accurate factual averments, or any plausible case against anyone named in the affidavit.

He said disturbing inconsistencies are evident in the various allegations set out in the affidavit.  In another supplementary legal opinion dated 30 June 2021, Justice Davis questioned the integrity of the then lead Prosecutor in the case Priscilla Israel (now Deputy Director of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime) and Hubona as the investigating officer in the case.

Davis cited an email of Priscilla Israel, then the head of the International Cooperation Unit within Botswana’s Directorate of Public Prosecutions, to Berdine Schutte and Herman Van Heerden of South Africa’s Department of Justice.

Israel reportedly states the following; “We submitted an urgent request on Mutual Legal Assistant relating to the Bank of Botswana fraud and Money Laundering case. Another matter related to it (sic) is a request for mutual legal assistance concerning Avante Securities.” The request relates to Motsepe and Makaku Mining.

Davis stated that on 23 November, Israel deposited a supporting affidavit which was filed together with the Government of Botswana’s answering affidavit in the defamation application launched by Motsepe on 23 October 2020 before the High Court of Botswana.

She reported that “During our inquiry, we discovered that the applicant was involved in the transfer of funds to the Republic of Botswana for the benefit of the former President Dr. Ian Khama Seretse Khama through a Botswana registered company the name of Avante Security Services (Pty) Ltd.”

She added in the affidavit that “I must point out prior my departure I was aware that the Botswana Police Service) was investigating an allegation of money laundering against Makua Mmakau mining, Mr. Olebeng Ngwakwena, Lazarus Mbethe, Mr. Paul Langa and Zonkezizwe Pty Ltd which matter is registered in our office for mutual legal assistance under file number CCG 2/14/68having been received om the 14th May 2019 from the Botswana Police Services.”

Israel also stated that “Furthermore, a request for mutual legal assistance had already been sent to the Republic of Seychelles on 2nd September 2019 and to the Republic of South Africa on the 9th October 2019. A further request was subsequently made to India on the 20th of January 2020.

We have received responses from India and Seychelles, but we are still following up with these countries. We are awaiting a response from the Republic of South Africa.” “The investigations revealed that Avante Security Services Botswana was initially wholly owned by a Botswana citizen Mr. Olebeng Ngwakwena.

However, in 2017, it was purchased by Zonkezizwe Pty Ltd, a South African registered entity. The said company is the owner (sic) and controlled by a Mr. Langa and a Mr. Mbethe. Mr. Olebeng Ngwakena’s shareholding has been reduced to 26% with Zonkizizwe holding 74%,” Israel is quoted as saying in her affidavit.

Giving a legal opinion on this, Davis said a careful analysis of these documents confirms that which he had concluded in his previous opinion, namely that Israel and by extension the application for mutual assistance “is based on so flimsy a legal edifice to justify the conclusion that these proceedings are based on a political as opposed to a legal agenda.”

He said,

“Israel’s affidavit is truly a problematic document in that it is replete with pure unsubstantiated speculation,” adding that “a few examples suffice to justify this.”
According to Justice Davis, confronting the problem that the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has stated that no money passed through its records by way of a remittal, Israel says: “Significantly the Reserve Bank does not state that it did not authorize the release of the funds, but rather it could not find any record of the transaction referred to as well as the authority. It is my averment that the results of our request will bear fruit.”

Davis said for Israel cast doubt on the SARB’s response to the allegation that sums of money being remitted into SA is disingenuous at best and have no place in a court of law. It is an attempt to use hermeneutics to counter the obvious-no such money came into the country.

“Similarly, Advocate Israel suggests that the respondents (Botswana Government), through their investigations, have established that the names Fire Files and Blue Files (companies whose accounts the money was transferred) “are code names, the actual bank account names are still to be established.” Davis found that later Israel suggests that these two are actual companies, a passage that seems to have been drafted in ignorance of the code name argument.

“The contention that companies like Fire Files and Blue Files are code names is an attempt designed to explain away the evidence of the SA Banks regarding the absence of accounts in these names. It means that Advocate Israel is alleging these banks to process somehow money that is below the SARB radar into secret accounts known by code but not by real corporate entities,” said Davis.
He said, “while these points do not apply directly to Avante and the allegations related to it, they go directly to clear lack of credibility on both Advocate Israel and Mr. Hubona.”

Davis said the problem facing Afriforum concerning Avante and the allegations related thereto is the following. In the light of the manifest difficulties concerning the overall case of money laundering, it is confronted with these improbable references: that the relevant consultancy agreement entered into between Avante and Mmakau was but a sham, that SARB was led astray in the permitting money to be paid out for security services plus expenses and that the entire structure and hence the payments made to Avante were in truth for the benefit of former President Khama.

There is nothing in papers made available to justify this level of inference, particularly in that the recipient is a company that provides security services to mining enterprises. There is nothing to suggest otherwise in the documents made available to me.

He said there is a further implication of the strategy adopted to allege South African complicity with money laundering in Botswana as described in both this opinion and my opinion relating to the Bank of Botswana matter. The only evidence, said Davis, is that no such money entered South Africa nor any plausible cash was paid into bank accounts of South African entities.

He warned that “To persist with these allegations is to suggest that both the South African Reserve Bank and a range of South African banks were either party to a conspiracy, have misrepresented the true position of or have all been grossly incompetent. This only has to be stated to illustrate that the course of action of Advocate Israel assisted by Afriforum seriously calls into question the very integrity of the South African banking system and the key regulatory institution.”

“Without any evidence to the contrary which has never been produced or plausibly offered, this course of conduct has been adopted for reasons which absent any evidence, allows only for any reasonable inference to be drawn, namely that political considerations have overridden any legal justification for pursuing this application should thus be treated as unsubstantiated on the country’s banking system,” he further warned.

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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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