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Friday, 19 April 2024

Debswana P110 million suit could be decided on Turquand Rule


Debswana Diamond Company’s hopes of surviving a P110 million suit against intelligence consultancy company, Infotrac (Pty) Ltd hinges on the Turquand Rule, which Judge Abednego Tafa has requested the lawyers representing the two entities to make submissions on.  

The Turquand rule, which is founded in common law, serves to protect bona fide third parties who are not aware of any internal irregularities of a company which may result in affecting the validity of a contract/transaction with the company. The Turquand rule has been commonly referred to as the ‘indoor management rule’. According to the rule, a company entering into transactions with third parties has a duty to ensure that all its internal rules have been complied with.

The Turquand rule relieves third parties from enquiring whether the company it intends on contracting with has complied with all its internal rules. It serves to shield bona fide third parties from being prejudiced by the company’s failure to comply with its own internal requirements. The Turquand rule, however, only serves as protection to third parties acting in good faith. This means that a third party who knew or even suspects that internal formalities have not been complied with but deliberately turns a blind eye will not be protected.

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. According to evidence given before court for the past three weeks, Debswana in 2017 commissioned Infotrac to provide covert services aimed at ensuring that then General Manager of Jwaneng Mine, Albert Milton ascends to the post of Managing Director, Debswana when Balisi Bonyongo’s tenure ends in 2018.

The High Court was informed that as part of its scope, Infotrac was expected to reach out to key figures in the 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, 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, the court has heard that Infotrac engaged Bonyongo on reports of bad blood between him and Milton. Bonyongo, when testifying this week, denied the allegations and ascertained that he supported 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 essay. Infotrac capitalised 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.

After completion of the work, Debswana failed to pay the bill. Debswana lawyer, John Carr-Hartley of Armstrongs, has contended that the company could not have entered into such an agreement because management did not have the authority to make such a call. According Carry-Hartley, all procurements more than P100 million are authorized by the board.

On Thursday this week, at the close of cross-examination, Judge Tafa asked Attorney Kgosi Ngakaagae, who represents Infotrac and Carry-Hartley to make written submissions on the Tanquard Rule, and that the submissions be submitted simultaneously end of April.
The judgement is expected on June 16, but Tafa said there is possibility to deliver the judgement earlier than the aforementioned date.

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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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