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Covid-19 delays Maun educational park (MEP) hand over

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KGOTLA MEETING TO FORM A TRUST PUT ON HOLD

After waiting for what seems like an eternitity for government to hand back Maun Educational Park (MEP), Batawana community will have to wait some more following the cancellation of a Kgotla meeting to form a Trust that will see through the final transfer of ownership of this prime piece of land due to corona virus.

This week government released a statement banning gatherings of more than 100 people in one place as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a disease that has since been declared a world pandemic by World Health organisation (WHO) following the outbreak of corona virus in Wuhan, China.

“This means we cannot call a kgotla meeting for now. We have plans to call the meeting, but we cannot set a date because we have to wait until the status quo changes,” explained Batawana paramount chief, kgosi Tawana Moremi in a brief interview this week.

Last week the government announced that it has handed back ownership of MEP to Batawana community.

In a savinggram to Tawana Landboard, the ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism (MENCT) ordered Tawana landboard to facilitate the transfer and advised that, “The community is therefore advised to form a community Trust or submit the name of the established Trust in order to facilitate the transfer of the park.”

Matsaakgang regiment spokesperson Douglas Mokenane, said that a Trust couldn’t be appointed until the community has given a mandate, “This is an issue of morafe and therefore they are the ones to give direction and guidance on how it is to be handled,” said Mokenane.

Currently there isn’t much activity going on in this park, which sits on the banks of Thamalakane River, but before handing it over, the government had plans to make it more attractive to tourists.

This included building of holiday resorts and world-class restaurants in this park.

Former MENCT’s minister, Tshekedi Khama, who is also brother to Botswana’s former president, Ian Khama Seretse Khama, pushed the idea.

At the time government argued strongly that MEP did not belong to Batawana community. However, Khama’s successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi distanced himself from the previous administration stance last year and announced publicly that he was going to hand over MEP back to Batawana as a gift to their paramount chief, Moremi, who had just retired from active politics.

Initially MEP was run by Batawana through Fauna Conservation Society of Ngamiland and was taken over by Department of Wildlife and National Parks in 1979 when government took over most of national parks around the country.

However Batawana had always maintained that MEP and Moremi Game Reserve were given to government on temporary basis for technical help in running of the two places.

“ Moremi Game Reserve was established, and then it was agreed in a kgotla meeting that instead of taking students or children deep into the Okavango Delta to see animals, it will be wise to bring the animals closer to the people; for educational purposes although there are no longer big animals in the park. That is how MEP was created,” Mokenane explained

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DPP moves closer to recovering P60 million

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The Directorate of Public Prosecutions moved another step closer to recovering the government’s P60 million from Basis Points Capital LTD when it closed its final submissions on Tuesday.

The DPP has made an application for Civil Forfeiture Order against property belonging to persons implicated in criminal proceedings in the P250 million National Petroleum Fund scam that is before the courts.

Making his final submissions, Ernest Mosate responded to arguments raised by the lawyers for the defendants saying that they were wrong to think that the DPP has no right to raise the issue of a fraudulent contract between DIS and Basis Points Capital LTD in their Replying Affidavit.

He said they had no intention to make the issue part of their application for the order, but the respondents raised it in their answering affidavits.

“Our Replying Affidavit brought evidence to demonstrate that the contract does not exist, it is a fraudulent document and that is why it cannot be the basis for the eating of 60 million Pula and for the manner in which it was eaten,” Mosate argued.

Basis Points Capital is linked to Bakang Seretse who is implicated in the 250 million NPF case that is still pending before the courts of law.

Mosate said that the fraudulent contract came into being between March and July 2016 and a total of P60 million was transferred to Basis Points Capital bank accounts at Stanbic Bank and Bank Gaborone between July and December of the same year.

He added that fraudulent signatures, fraudulent correspondence, and ghost employees of DIS were used in the scam hence the urgent need to recover the funds.

This, he said, was confirmed by DIS and ministry officials who have disowned the signatures that appear in agreement documents.

Earlier, the defendants called for government officials to take to the witness stand and be subjected to cross examination in respect to the contents of their affidavits.

Mosate said that the rules of the High Court Act and Proceeds and Instruments of Crime Act (PICA) prescribe how forfeiture proceedings should be conducted – “they should be conducted speedily and expeditiously”.

He said there was no need for a full trial but the judge had the discretion to call some witnesses to clarify their averments.

The DPP further said that the company did not procure oil as purported in the fraudulent contract but instead, the funds were used in acquisition of luxurious vehicles and acquisition of plots which are to be forfeited.

Some of the vehicles under the DPP’s radar are a couple of Ford Maceratti, Mercedes Benz luxury vehicles and developed plots.

Meanwhile, Justice OmphemetseMotumise has postponed the matter to end of July when he will pass judgment.

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Court dismisses application for case withdrawal

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Industrial Court Judge President, Tebogo Maruping, has turned down an application for a withdrawal in a marathon case between former Wildlife Ranger, Thatayaone Lexicon Mpatane and his former employer Department of Wildlife & National Parks.

In a brief letter dated 10th March, the Registrar of the Industrial Court, Anna Mphethe writes that: “I’m directed by by the Honourable Judge President who’s seized with this matter to inform you that this has been concluded and is currently awaiting judgement and therefore your application for withdrawal will not be entertained.”

A bemused Mpatane told The Voice that he was shocked that the Judge President has rejected his intention to withdraw the matter. “In our correspondences last year, whenever I inquired about the case, I was always given the impression that the Judge President had a backlog of cases from as far back as 2017 and mine was number 50 out of about 51 cases,” he said.

Mpatane referred The Voice to a correspondence from the Court written on 20th December 2019 in response to his inquiry written on 11th November 2019.

In the letter written by Bakang Tshipinare on behalf of the Registrar, the Judge President states that the principle of first in, last out is applied when cases are adjudicated before court. “Your matter will hence be dealt with, once the preceding cases are concluded. We’ll hence keep yourself updated on the estimated time frames during the year 2020,” reads part of the letter.

In court documents seen by this publication, Mpatane wrote his case withdrawal letter on 3rd February and requested a prompt meeting with the bench clerk to inspect the file.

However according to Mpatane while the court provided him with the documents the one he needed the most was conspicuously missing. “The court order confirming that I withdrew the matter was not among the documents and when I inquired further I was told the Judge President had refused to write the order asserting that he had already heard the case and would write judgement,” he said.

The former ranger told The Voice last week that he needed the material to register the matter with the High Court to seek for additional reliefs which the Industrial Court cannot grant.

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