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Masisi caught up in Debswana P110 million legal dispute

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President Mokgweetsi Masisi was among top government officials who were lobbied to support the appointment of former Debswana Managing Director, Albert Milton by security consultancy and business intelligence company, Infotrac (Pty) Ltd, the court heard on Thursday.

Debswana is currently in court with its erstwhile preferred covert services partner, Infotrac (Pty) Ltd, after refusing to settle P110 million debt as demanded by the latter.  The High Court was informed that as part of its scope, Infotrac was expected to reach out to key figures in echelons of power to lobby for the appointment of the late Albert Milton as the Managing Director of Debswana.

Though Milton was already earmarked for the post, it has been revealed that his ascendency faced sabotage from various quarters, including the then outgoing Debswana MD, Balisi Bonyongo, who did not see eye-to-eye with his would-be successor.
In the grand scheme of things, an outgoing Debswana MD is an influential figure who could have say on their successor. As part of lobbying for Milton, court heard on Thursday that Infotrac engaged Bonyongo on reports of bad blood between him and Milton. Bonyongo, according to evidence given in court, denied the allegations and ascertained that he supports Milton as the next MD of Debswana.

Initially, there were reports that Milton’s personal life could be used against him in his bid to become MD. Infotrac, the court heard, was involved not only to ascertain his suitability for the MD post, but to also advise him on how to conduct his personal life, as well as lobbying key players to be favourably disposed towards him.

When giving chief evidence, Infotrac Managing Director, Mompoloki Motshidi indicated that among the people he lobbied by guiding Milton in his scope of work was then Vice President (and later President) Mokgweetsi Masisi. Masisi and Milton reportedly had existing good rapport, which made the lobbying easy. Infotrac capitalized on this relationship by guiding Milton on how to lobby Masisi.  Then Chief of Intelligence; Isaac Kgosi, and former Governor of Bank of Botswana, the late Linah Mohohlo were also lobbied.

Later, after Masisi became President, Milton succeeded Bonyongo as Debswana MD in December 2018. Infotrac contends that, this transition, adds to the success of the work that was carried out by the company. Meanwhile, at the time Milton was appointed MD, Kgosi was no longer the intelligence chief. Nonetheless, he was DIS Director General when the lobbying started.

The former governor, Mohohlo, was neither Debswana board member nor BoB governor at the time, but the Infotrac MD, argue that her valued came from the influence she had through her network locally and internationally. Mohohlo, the countries longest governor was a regular feature in Debswana board by the virtue of her position.

FORMER PSP TESTFIES IN COURT

Beleaguered former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi appeared before Justice Abednico Tafa on Thursday to give evidence in the battle between Desbwana and Infotrac.  As PSP, Morupisi served either as Chairman or Deputy Chairman of the Board of Desbwana, interchangeably with De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruce Cleaver.

Giving evidence in court, Morupisi said in August 2019, he was approached by Infotrac MD, who relayed to him news of Debswana’s refusal to pay for services his company rendered. Morupisi, he told court, then picked a phone and reached out to the Debswana MD, Milton over the matter. According to Morupisi, at that time, Milton indicated that he was travelling, but promised to settle the matter once in office.

John Carr-Hartley, of Armstrongs, questioned Morupisi why as a Debswana board member he was not alarmed by payment of over P100 million. Carr-Hartley further said Morupisi was aware that any procurement of over P100 million can only be authorized by the board.  In response, Morupisi said though acknowledging his fiduciary duty as Debswana board member, he never knew if the debt in question was lump sum services or debt that accrued over time.

Carr-Hartley also asked if Morupisi was aware of the transaction, and why he did not report it to Debswana board. Morupisi said he did not report it because it was a management issue, and he was not involved in what management was doing. Morupisi also indicated that if there was anything wrong, he would have expected Milton to raise it during their call.

Morupisi said, because of the nature of services Infotrac offered, its work would naturally be restricted to people who are responsible for it. Morupisi also testified that he has only met Motshidi once in relation to the matter in dispute.  Meanwhile, Motshidi told the court that, as part of payment, Debswana had at some point offered P10 million, but only P2 million was readily available, but he rejected the payment terms.

Other payment options, as heard in court, proposed by Debswana was through giving future jobs to Infotrac.  The Debswana lawyer has argued that there is an inconsistence with regard to the declaration and chief evidence given by Infotrac MD, with regard to among others, the people who were involved in commissioning the work.

According to evidence given in court, the project was mastermind by the three figures; Head of Security- Debswana, Head of Security – Jwaneng Mine and Head of Human Resources. The case will return to court on the 3rd of June. Debswana is represented by John Carr-Hartley of Armstrongs, while Infotrac is represented by Kgosi Ngakaagae of Ngakaagae and Co.

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In his affidavit, Katholo says that by virtue of my appointment as the Director General of the DCEC, he is obliged to defend the administration and operational activities of the DCEC. He added that, “I have however been advised about a provision in the State Proceedings Act which grants the authority of public institution to undertake legal proceedings to the Attorney General.” Katholo contends that the provision is not absolute and the High Court may in the exercise of its original jurisdiction permit such, like in this circumstance authorise such proceedings to be instituted by the DCEC or its Director General.

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