DCEC, FIA, BURS, NBFIRA, investigate Manual Workers Union for corruption
* We are innocent- Motswarakgole
Five law enforcement agencies recently pounced on the Manual Workers Union offices in search of evidence of alleged massive corruption and possible embezzlement of funds running into millions of Pula.
In an iinvestigation that stretched for two days, Directorate On Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), Non Bank Financial Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) and the police swooped in on the unsuspecting union bosses, searching them both at the office and at their respective homes.
At the top of the investigation list are the Union’s CEO, Johnson Motswarakgole and his two principals.
The law enforcement joint operation was a result of a tip off that top management has been milking the union dry, especially from the Mokaulengwe Funeral Benefit Scheme, through bribery, abuse of office, maladministration and suspected criminal and fraudulent activities that could have bled the union of millions of pula.
Speaking in an interview Motshwarakgole, who has been running the show for well over 40 years, confirmed the incident but preempted his innocence.
Motswarakgole told The Voice in an interview that the officers from the mentioned investigating bodies stormed the union offices and ‘paraded’ his staff.
“I will not hide anything from you, so yes about 12 officers from DCEC, NBFIRA, BURS , FIA and Police did come to our offices last week for about two days straight for an investigation that we are yet to be briefed on,” confirmed Motswarakgole.
The charismatic union leader further said, “We were subjected to searches at our homes and my staff as you can imagine have been unsettled and scared of the whole parade. They stormed our offices for two days before they proceeded to my staff’s homes.”
Motswarakgole however maintained that he and his staff would prove to be innocent of any of the charges that they may face.
Probed further he revealed “Internally we had actually instituted an investigation into allegations of maladministration with regards to the Mokaulengwe benefit scheme. The internal audit started about a month ago and we expected the internal audit result by end of the month. I will avail the copy to you.”
The Director General of the DCEC, Brigadier Joseph Mathambo confirmed the probe.
“We are still at preliminary stages. No one has been charged yet but we are looking into irregularities that may have taken place.”
“I cannot disclose any more information than that at this stage,” Mathambo said.
Meanwhile Motswarakgole dismissed his detractors who have called for his removal from the top seat.
Commenting on this he said, “The retirement age that was not set by me but the union structures is 70.
ATN advocates for tobacco ban
A call to stop the sales to tobacco products during the state of public emergency to save lives from COVID-19: Anti Tobacco Network, Botswana
The Anti Tobacco Network Botswana (ATN, Botswana) recognizes that tobacco use is an immediate threat to the control of COVID-19 spread, and calls on Government to stop the sales to tobacco products during the state of public emergency to save lives.
We note and commend the Government for approving a regulation prohibiting the importation into Botswana of tobacco or tobacco-related products during the state of public emergency.
This action is indeed a testament of the cardinal recognition by the Government and confirmation to the whole nation that tobacco and tobacco related products such as e-cigarettes, hubbly bubbly, (Shisha), vapes are non-essential commodities and that tobacco is a non-essential business that cannot be allowed to continue during the state of public emergency.
ATN Botswana however, urges the Government as a matter of urgency to issue further regulation to suspend all sale of tobacco and tobacco related products during the COVID-19 pandemic period.
Such a ban will reduce easy access to tobacco products and therefore save lives of many people.
People who smoke or use other tobacco products should be assisted to quit in our health facilities.
Our urgent call to ban the sale of tobacco products during this time of public emergency is informed by scientific evidence that smoking damages human lungs and other body organs.
Smoking also destroys the immune system hence weakening a smoker’s responsiveness to infections.
As COVID -19 is primarily a disease affecting the respiratory system, smokers are therefore more vulnerable to developing severe COVID-19 which may result in prolonged hospitalization under life support machines in intensive care units (ICU) or death. Persons with long standing chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are also susceptible to severe COVID -19.
There is compelling evidence from previous studies that smokers are twice more likely than non-smokers to contract influenza and have more severe symptoms.
While smokers were also noted to have higher mortality in the previous Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak, emerging data from patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 show higher percentages of current and former smokers among patients that have needed ICU support, mechanical ventilation or those that have died.
The findings show that a higher percentage of smokers are among the severe cases.
We argue that tobacco products are not essential commodities and their sales must therefore be banned.
Allowing tobacco sales will expose smokers to COVID-19 who will repeatedly be going to the shops to purchase tobacco products.
In addition, Government should completely ban the sale and use of the hubbly Bubbly (Shisha) which is usually smoked in groups using shared mouth pieces that are a channel for transmission of COVID -19 and other respiratory diseases including tuberculosis.
During such smoking sessions, it is practically impossible to maintain social distance to avoid transmission of COVID -19 as well.
It must be remembered that the sharing of tobacco products by its users pose the danger of spreading COVID-19 through contaminated saliva.
Several countries in Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Gambia have banned sale of use of shisha.
Recently, 17 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region have banned hubbly Bubbly (Shisha) as a measure to control spread of COVID -19.
South Africa banned the sale of tobacco products during its 21-day lockdown.
Botswana can join these countries, to further solidify its stance that tobacco is not an essential commodity and preventing its use can save lives.
We further call on the Government to strictly enforce the provisions of section 13 of the Control of Smoking Act which bans the advertisement of tobacco products by the tobacco industry.
ATN Botswana has noted with concern that recently, there has been an upsurge in advertisement, especially banners posted by irresponsible companies or individuals that boldly advertise and promote tobacco products in the face of COVID-19 and in full disregard of existing law prohibition of advertising and promotion of tobacco products in Botswana.
Such adverts even inviting people to smoke shops when the Government of Botswana is urging people to keep physical distance, will negatively affect the effort to fight COVID-19 and also defeat other efforts by government to reduce tobacco use which is a known leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
By Professor Bontle Mbongwe, Executive Director, Anti Tobacco Network
Francistown’s peaceful night
On the first day of the 28 days of extreme social distancing, the city of Francistown has experienced one of the most peaceful nights in a long time.
Officer Commanding Number 15 District Senior Superintendent Kabo Badirwang told The Voice in an interview that despite a few isolated incidents the night went on with no worries.
The top cop said stopping the sale of alcohol two weeks ago was a stroke of genius that will go a long way in the combat against Covid-19.
Badirwang said they were worried last night as at around 10pm, they could still see long queues at Automated Teller Machines and some quick shops.
“We announced at around 11:30 that people should be getting ready to go home and what we saw was absolute cooperation. By 12 midnight, the streets were quiet. It was an absolute pleasure to see,” Badirwang said.
He said in an isolated incident they came across three ladies who arrived on a late bus at the Francistown bus rank. “They were heading to areas around Somerset, but as you know there was no public transport. They however finally managed to get a lift and were allowed to proceed to their destination.”
Badirwang said even troublesome locations such as Coloured and Bluetown were very quite at night. “People in Francistown have headed the message and this in turn make our task easy,” he added.
He however noted that while the Francistown nights go on peacefully, it is during the day that they experience challenges with people who still feel they have a right to walk wherever they want.
“We do receive reports of people who are not observing the health tips and social distancing. Those will be dealt with. I’m hopeful that in the coming days, people will understand what this is all about,” he said.