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Thursday, 18 April 2024

New twist in Choppies-Mphoko saga

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The case in which former Zimbabwean Vice President, Phelekezela Mphoko and his son Siqokoqela and Choppies are fighting over the value of the shares owned by the former in the company has taken a new twist with the two men turning their guns on their estranged lawyer, Welshman Ncube.

According to papers before the Bulawayo High Court, Zimbabwe, the two men seek to recover about US$1, 5 million from Ncube.  Mpho and his son are requesting the Court to issue an order for the payment of the following sums of US$1, 5 million which Ncube received in trust for and on behalf of the two men from Choppies Enterprises Ltd, for onward payment to the Mphokos by the 16th January 2019, which sums of money despite demand Ncube has failed, refused and or neglected to pay.

The Mphokos said in court papers that between the 1st January 2109 and 9th January 2019, Ncube received the sum of US$2 900 000.00 (two million nine hundred thousand United States dollars) from Choppies Enterprises Ltd, for and on their behalf, while acting in his capacity as their attorney under a contract of mandate and having separately contracted to do so in a written Addendum to a Settlement Agreement signed between the plaintiffs, Choppies Enterprises Ltd and Defendant on the 11th January 2019.

At all material times, the two men said, they were shareholders in Choppies Enterprises Ltd and the sum of money at issue were received by Ncube in trust as consideration in a transaction wherein the plaintiffs were pressured to purportedly dispose of their shares in exchange for a withdrawal of criminal charges against Siqokoqela and his wife.

The Mphokos said Ncube confirmed to them that he received for and on their behalf the full amount from Choppies Enterprises and upon request from them Ncube paid the sum of $517 500.00 (five hundred and seven thousand five hundred dollars) to Mphoko leaving a balance of $832 500.00 (eight hundred and thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars); and a sum of  $730 219.00 (seven hundred and thirty thousand two hundred and nineteen dollars) to Siqokoqela, leaving a balance of $619 708.50 (six hundred and nineteen thousand seven hundred and eight dollars and fifty cents).

They said despite demand, Ncube has failed, neglected and or refused to pay the aforesaid balances of $832 500.00 (eight hundred and thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars) to Mphoko and $619 708.50 (six hundred and nineteen thousand seven hundred and eight dollars and fifty cents) to Siqokoqela. Therefore, the two men pray for judgment against Ncube as follows:  payment of the sum of $832 500.00 (eight hundred and thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars) to Mphoko and $619 708.50 (six hundred and nineteen thousand seven hundred and eight dollars and fifty cents) to Siqokoqela.

They also demand payment of interest on the respective amounts of money at the prescribed rate of interest of 5% per annum from the 16th January 2019 to date of payment in full.  The latest development comes at a time when Mphoko and his are also seeking an order declaring their entitlement to payment of the true value of the 51% shares they held in Choppies before being booted out. In the case against Choppies, Mphoko and his son are demanding an outstanding US$44 million for their 51% shares in the company.

The Mphokos also claimed interest at the rate of 5% per annum from January 9, 2019, when they were unlawfully divested of their shareholding, to date of full payment.
In their declaration of the claim, the Mphokos submitted that at all material time, they were the majority shareholders of Nanavac Investments, holding an aggregate of 51% shares.

“First applicant (Siqokoqela) held 25,5% shares and second applicant (Phelekezela) held 25,5% shares in first defendant (Nanavac Investments), while the second defendant (Choppies Enterprises) held the remaining 49% of the first defendant (Nanavac Investments)’ shares,” reads the declaration.

“In about 2018, a dispute arose between first applicant and second defendant resulting in the second and third defendants instituting legal proceedings against first plaintiff and his wife and the first defendant at the High Court. The second defendant instituted malicious and false criminal complaints to the police, resulting in the institution of magistrates’ court proceedings against the first plaintiff and his wife.”

They said the proceedings resulted in their arrest and detention and on January 9 in order to secure freedom, the Mphokos signed a deed of settlement with Choppies Enterprises in terms of which they disposed of their shareholding in Nanavac Investments to Choppies Enterprises. “The deed of settlement between the parties provided that the two plaintiffs were to be paid US$2,9 million by second defendant for the acquisition of plaintiffs’ full rights and title to the first defendant’s shareholding,” they said.

The Mphokos said the unlawful deed of settlement understated value of the shareholding they owned in that US$2,9 million offered for the shares constituted about 7% as opposed to 51% of the value of the shares in Nanavac Investments, which was given as US$44 million at the Botswana Stock Exchange.

“The second defendant paid the sum of US$2,9 million in local currency, where shareholding was purportedly being acquired by a foreign entity and in terms of the impugned deed of settlement, the value of the shares was in US dollars. The plaintiffs are entitled to 51% shares in first defendant in terms of the shareholders agreement of July 24 2013.”

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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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