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How Debswana lost P110 million suit against Infotrac

Debswana Diamond Company, has been ordered to pay business intelligence consultancy company, Infotrac (Pty) Ltd, P110 million plus 10 percent interest tempora morae for the role it played in ensuring that the late Albert Milton becomes the Managing Director of the company.

Debswana found itself 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 in March this year 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 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. Bonyongo, however, later in court stated that he supported and recommended the appointment of Milton as his successor.

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 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.

Meanwhile, Debswana in court, argued that the work was not commissioned by the company, and that the amount involved, P110 million, could only have been authorised by the Board, not company executives. Judge Abednego Tafa ruled on Thursday this week, that testimony given by former Permanent Secretary to the President and Debswana Board Chairman, Carter Morupisi was compelling enough to rule in Infotrac’s favour.

Morupisi had informed the court that, he was in August 2019 approached by Managing Director of Infotrac, in his capacity as the Board Vice Chairman of Debswana, asking him to intervene as Debswana was delaying payment for work carried out. Morupisi said he then called Milton in presence of Infotrac MD, and the then Debswana MD acknowledged the existence such issue, promising to settle it once he is back in the country.

“The witness impressed me as a witness of truth. He did not show any tendency to embellish his evidence in anyway. He answered all questions put to him with admirable spontaneity (some of which suggesting that he may have acted in an unethical manner) and in a calm and collected manner typical of a former head of the civil service,” said Judge Tafa.

“What came out clearly from his evidence was that details of security matters and services were the preserve of management and security personnel.”  Judge Tafa said the cross-examination of the MD of Infotrac, Motshidi, by the defendant was aimed at discrediting his evidence, without necessarily placing before the court, the defendant’s version.

Judge Tafa said the approach was not a surprise taking into account the fact that the defendant was, throughout, denying the existence of the alleged contract, therefore having no version to proffer.
According to the Judge Tafa, the cross-examination brought to the fore some perceived and real contradictions between the letter of demand addressed to the defendant by the plaintiff’s erstwhile attorneys and the evidence of the witness.

The judge said, strictly speaking, the plaintiff’s case is to be found in the Declaration, but indicated that, it is perfectly in order, to cross-examine the plaintiff on any discrepancies between the Declaration and the letter of demand as the assumption is that the attorneys acting for and on behalf of the plaintiff had obtained instructions from the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s representative as appropriate.

He said indeed, the Declaration as drafted was not perfect, but it did set out the plaintiff’s Cause of Action with sufficient clarity. “The plaintiff’s Director [Mompoloki Motshidi] came out unscathed after careful and painstaking cross-eamination by a very experienced legal practitioner,” Judge Tafa said.

“I found his evidence to be truthful and compelling. He remained calm throughout the proceedings although there were times when he seemed slightly agitated when it was suggested to him that there never was a contract between the defendant and his company. This is understandable.”

Judge Tafa said during cross examination, it was put to Motshidi that the other candidate for the position of Managing Director had withdrawn her candidacy thus making Milton the only candidate, in which case there would have been no need to lobby for the appointment of Milton.

“The suggestion in my view neglects the naked reality that in a situation where there are two shareholders, each with its own constituency, there is always need for lobbying. The fact that Milton at one stage, became the only candidate did not render his appointment automatic,” said Judge Tafa.

In mounting defence against, Infotrac, Debswana dismissed the claim on the basis that it does not meet the procurement procedures of Debswana. It was argued that Debswana large expenditure requires Tender Process or a Purchase Order. The procurement of goods or services with a cost of more than P100 million had to be approved by ExCo (Executive Committee), and the Managing Director and then be ratified by the Board of Directors of Debswana.

During cross examination, Debswana Senior Commercial Manager, Mokwadi Koloka admitted that “non-compliance with procurement procedures is something the defendant [Debswana] appreciates may happen hence a provision for remedial measures.”

It was established that Debswana previously flouted its procurement procedures when it was purchasing spy equipment, by concealing the nature of the equipment acquired. It was revealed that previously, when it purchased spying equipment through Infotrac for the purpose of spying and acquiring intelligence on Mine Workers Union, there was no tender carried out. The quotation was doctored and referred to as “boardroom equipment or interview equipment.”

It was also contended that the personalities involved in the commissioning the work, were senior officials from Debswana whom ordinarily, one would believe had authority to carry out the work they requested. The officials were; the Head of Security- Headquarters, Head of Security- Jwaneng and Head Human Resource and Jwaneng.

The defendants, said Infotrac’s failed to call the officials involved in the said transaction to testify its favour, but the court established otherwise. “It is unfair in my view, unreasonable to expect the plaintiff to call the very people who are refusing to pay it, to testify in its favour. In the eyes of the plaintiff and as found and held by this court, the three people mentioned above are part of the defendant,” said Judge Tafa.

“Although no onus lies on the defendant to prove the negative, it would have made everybody’s life easier if the defendant had called these gentlemen to deny that they ever entered into the alleged agreement with the plaintiff.”

Judge ruled that he was satisfied that the plaintiff was entitled to assume, that the officers of the defendant, who are part of the Executive were authorised to conclude a contract of this nature. He ordered that; there shall be a judgment in favour of the plaintiff in the sum of P110 million; interest at 10 percent per annum a tempora morae and cost of suits.

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Food prices continue to rise, but at a slower rate

28th November 2022

Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

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Still doing business the old way?

18th November 2022

It’s time to get business done better with MTN Business Botswana’s ICT Solutions.

Running a digital businessMTN Business Solutions Botswana, popularly known as MTN Business is an Internet Service Provider. We are a subsidiary of MTN Group Limited, a multinational telecommunications Group headquartered in South Africa, which operates in 19 markets across Africa and the Middle East.

More and more, clients are looking for ways to keep their staff productive in a dynamically changing business environment. Whether your people are working from home, the office or abroad, there is a growing recognition that digitising your operations can offer unprecedented commercial value in flexibility, productivity and growth. This new, digital reality means that it is more important than ever to stay agile – if there is anything that can slow a business down, it is being burdened by othatld technology.

Having made substantial investments in fibre technology, high-speed terrestrial and undersea networks and new frequency spectrum across the markets wherein it operates, MTN is perfectly positioned to respond to this shift in the market.

A few years ago, MTN also made the decision to build an IP capable radio network for its mobile services, giving its core network the ability to seamlessly integrate with enterprise IP networks. The mobile towers deliver services to enterprise clients absolutely anywhere it has a network, shortening the last mile and removing complexity and cost.

Now there is increasing demand from clients to connect their remote sites in all areas, including rural and semi- rural. MTN has assisted clients with overcoming this connectivity hurdle, enabling their staff to get the job done wherever they are.
MTN’s evolution

For MTN, the focus has shifted from just being a core telecommunications services provider, towards also becoming a technology solutions provider. The service offering now also includes Unified Communications, Data Hosting and Cloud Solutions, Security-As-A-Service and Managed Network Services. The scope has changed to being client and industry specific, so the requirements and service portfolio vary from one client to the next. The expectation is that a company like MTN must respond to these challenges, helping clients to get business done better as they shift from old to new technologies.

As many businesses continue to grapple with a digitally dynamic world, they face new challenges that have to be solved. This environment will benefit those that are more digitally enabled and agile. It is a brave new world that will favour online over on-site, wireless over wired and fluid over formulaic. Businesses will seek out partners and suppliers that are every bit as flexible and forward-looking as they are.
Ultimately, clients need partners like MTN Business that will invest in infrastructure, deliver the services they require, have market credibility, are financially sound and have a long-term commitment to their market presence.

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BIE to vitalize the Dignity of Engineers

9th November 2022

Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in  which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.

The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.

Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.

“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.

He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.

Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.

“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.

He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.

He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc

“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran

Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.

“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.

Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that  the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.

“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.

He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.

“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams

He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .

Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution  said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.

“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.

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