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Friday, 19 April 2024

DIS’ role in acquisition of De Graaff lodge raises eyebrows


The Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS)’s role in the controversial acquisition of Tautona Lodge by the government has raised eyebrows.

Details have always been sketchy as to why the government bought Tautona Lodge through direct appointment at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lodge which is owned by former minister of Agriculture and former member of Parliament for Gantsi South, Christian De Graaff was purchased for P58 million.
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This publication has seen a letter from the Deputy Director General of DIS Tefo Kgotlhane addressed to the Registrar General of Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA). The letter which is brief, indicated that, “this letter serves as confirmation that Tautona Lodge Propriety Limited should be 100% Botswana Government shareholding.”

It is not clear why Kgotlhane used the letterhead of the Office of the President when addressing the letter to the CIPA Registrar General instead of the DIS letterhead as he does in some of the correspondences between his agency and other government departments.

Kgotlhane who signed the letter on behalf of the Director General of DIS also informed the Registrar General of CIPA that, “Your Assistance on this matter is highly appreciated.” This latest revelation has heightened speculation that the reasons why Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng climbed down on his promise to share details and documents with Parliament was because of the involvement of DIS in the acquisition of the lodge.

At the time, when answering a question in Parliament, Morwaeng said: “The facility will mainly be utilized for training by government departments, including being a center for hosting research on the sand veldt environment, particularly wildlife, cattle rearing, agriculture and other uses. This will enable Botswana to build relevant knowledge and maximize on the economic and environmental opportunities offered by the sand veld.”

Maun West Member of Parliament and Leader of the Opposition Dumelang Saleshando had wanted to establish among other things the planned use of land by government and the purchase price.
Saleshando later wrote to Morwaeng informing him that he had “since turned up information on my investigations and consultations with the people of Gantsi concerning the acquisition of Tautona Lodge Pty Ltd.”

“I am advised that sometime in 2018 or shortly thereafter, there were consultations between government and some farm owners in Gantsi on possible acquisition of their farms through competitive process,” he said. According to Saleshando there were potential sellers willing to sell their farms in Gantsi that are greater in size that the Tautona Lodge land at a substantially lower price than what has been paid to Tautona Lodge.

“Furthermore, I have established that government has various farms in the Gantsi District that remain underdeveloped or underutilized. Some of the farms I have been able to identify are located in Grootlaagte, Qabo, West Hanahai, Xanagas, Chobokwane and Nxojane,” said Saleshando.

He also requested Morwaeng to disclose the number of farms considered for acquisition in Gantsi by the government before the acquisition of Tautona Lodge and why the engagements with farmers willing to sell their farms in discontinued.

He also requested for information relating to the name of the companies or directors that government engaged on possible acquisition of their farms, list of farms that government, central and local government own in the Gantsi area Replying to Saleshando’s letter, Morwaeng said the reasons I deferred adhering to the former’s request was to allow himself to be fully advised legally on what he could and could disclose.

“I have since been advised that I am not at liberty to disclose all documents due to the legal restrictions imposed by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (Cap 42:08). The context in which I made the statements that I had the documents and they were available for inspection must be construed within what is permissible within the confines of the law,” said the Minister.

Saleshando had requested for copies of all documents relating to the asset register of the company Tautona Lodge. Commenting on this, Morwaeng said attached confirmation of shareholding and certificate of incorporation as well as other details relating to company adding that these are available on the CIPA website.

Saleshando had also requested all correspondences relating to the direct procurement and or selective procurement of Tautona Lodge and the acquisition transaction. Commenting on this, Morwaeng said this information was classified under the PPADB Act adding that it is offence to disclose this information.

Also classified, Morwaeng said, was all communication or write ups emanating from your office or any other government office either as proposal for direct appointment or acquisition sent to ministerial or PPADB by his Ministry in relation to the acquisition of Tautona lodge.

All or any approvals or motivation for approvals for direct acquisition sent to the ministerial tender committee and PPADB by your ministry or any other ministry in relation to the acquisition of Tautona Lodge.

After his request was rejected by Morwaeng, Saleshando recently informed the Minister that, “You will undoubtedly agree that this transaction has outraged, infuriated and incensed our entire citizenry because of the of the manner in which the entire transaction was carried out which lacked transparency and most importantly the fact that, an acquisition of a lodge was given priority over the health needs of our people.”

The leader of the opposition also indicated that, “It is my view, that of the UDC and the citizens of Botswana that in taking the decision to give preference to acquisition of a lodge over the lives of our people, government was thoughtless and out rightly careless.”[/ihc-hide-content]


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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