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Debswana purchase of spy equipment evidence emerges

Debswana Diamond Company, could suffer massive reputational damage owing to new evidence relating to the purchase of spying equipment targeting the company key personnel.

The discreet purchase of spying equipment was procured through Infotrac (Pty) Ltd company, and the equipment was simply referred to as boardroom equipment in order to conceal the nature of the devices the company was purchasing.
According to documents seen by this publication, Infotrac in its dispute with Debswana over P110 million payment, has submitted purchase orders to the court as part of its evidence.

Purchase Order number 4300292617, made on the 28th of February 2019 to Infotrac indicates that Debswana procured at least 11 different types of spying equipment. The purchased equipment comprises; USB Camstick Camera with Night Vision; Coffee Thermos Hidden Camera, LawMate Key Chain HD DVR Camera, Hidden Camera Backpack by Extreme Life Plus, Eon International GPS Tracker, 49 Neckloop Transmitter for V1-10612 Wireless Ear Receiver, Cell Phone & GPS Detector, Mobile Phone Spy Protector, Counter Surveillance Kit, Body Worn Camera Kit and 25-Day Standby Voice Recorder.

Debswana further commissioned and paid Infotrac to provide training to its select staff on the use of the newly acquired spying equipment. The training did not materialize, but Debswana had already paid for the service in advance. Despite Debswana denying spying its employees, the documents prove that indeed, the diamond giant has been monitoring some of its key personnel. The spying equipment were placed in strategic places, including in company cars and in the staff residences.

Debswana, which remains the countrys golden goose, and handles a sensitive product, has, however, not divulged reasons for spying, rather insisting that there was no spying by the company on its staff. Infotrac, which is the beneficiary of such purchase has refused to comment on its once covert business dealings with Debswana. I am not at liberty to discuss such with the media, and I will not comment because the matter is in court, said company Director, Mompoloki Motshidi.

Meanwhile, Debswana has also declined to comment on the same basis after this publication sent an inquiry to the corporate affairs department. The case which Infotrac has launched against Debswana is shortly due to be heard at court. Therefore, we find that it is not appropriate to comment at this juncture, said Debswana Corporate Affairs Manager- External, Agatha Sejoe.

This publication wanted Debswana to confirm the procurement of the spying equipment in view of the purchase orders seen by this publication and whether the cameras are still installed to spy on employees. Further inquiry was made on the extent of spying, which included cars and residences, as well as whether such policy was in line with the company corporate governance. WeekendPost also wanted to establish the procurement method used to engage Infotrac to supply such equipment.

Debswana, over the years, have had a covert relationship with Infotrac; providing security services to the company. The relationship of the two companies came out in public in 2020, over a dispute over P110 million bill, which Debswana has refused to pay, resulting in court action. Infotrac claims it was engaged by Debswana, to determine among others the suitability of the late and former Managing Director Albert Milton to be appointed to the post.

The service was occasioned by ploy by some in the organisation to try to deny Milton the opportunity to be appointed to the top post on the basis that he was not suitable for the post for various reasons relating to his integrity. After being briefed by some in the echelons of power at Debswana, Infotrac was given a scope of work in which it was expected to deliver its findings.

The findings were, however, favourable to Milton, resulting in his appointment as Debswana boss, succeeding Balisi Bonyongo in December 2018. According to court documents, there was an oral contract between Debswana and Infotrac to provide other services. The nature of the services were however not specified in the documents.

When the dispute started, Debswana suspended some of its personnel including Senior Human Resource Manager, Head of Security and his deputy, and started a forensic investigation on the matter. Details of the investigation are, however, not known.

Because of the nature of the investigation, Debswana cannot share details of the investigation, save to say that the investigation is a broad-based one and is being conducted by an independent forensic investigation firm. In addition, the details of the investigation cannot be shared in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation process, Debswana Head of Corporate Affairs, Rachel Mothibatsela said in previous interview with WeekendPost.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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