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Mogoditshane ‘car wars’ rumble on

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This week, hundreds of imported cars remained strapped to the top of trucks as the taxman suspended trading at the majority of warehouses in Mogoditshane.

With the warehouses closed, frustrated car-haulers were left with nowhere to offload their imports and remained stranded by the roadside.

This comes after Botswana Unified Revenue Service’s (BURS) recent declaration of war on grey import dealers in the Kweneng District town.

Angry dealers accused BURS of sabotage by delaying the tax clearance on their imports – a move which they say has left them unable to sell their stock.

They further claimed the tax watchdog has temporarily stopped the importation of grey import vehicles, commonly referred to as ‘Fong Kongs’.

However, BURS General Manager- Investigations, Compliance and Enforcement, Kaone Molapo dismissed both accusations as false.

“We are addressing a situation of economic sabotage; it is worse than you can imagine,” declared Molapo, stressing the law forbids BURS from closing off the borders to imports.

He maintained that those who abide by the law and submit correct valuations are free to carry on with business.

Molapo further revealed BURS have seized over 4, 000 vehicles suspected to have been undervalued in an attempt to pay less tax and import duties.

The revenue service suspect garages in Mogoditshane, as well as the rest of Botswana, collude with suppliers in Durban, South Africa, by writing incorrect invoices.

Speaking to The Voice on condition of anonymity, a dealer, whose garage is one of the few to remain open, described BURS’ campaign as ‘political propaganda’.

Pointing out the stranded trucks, he said, “Some have been here since the weekend because there is no where they can offload. Some drivers got fed up of waiting and just uploaded outside and went back to South Africa, they just left the keys with security guards! This has left warehouses with the burden of having to engage more security to look after these cars offloaded outside.”

The man further claimed BURS have known about the grey import tax dodge for years and wondered why they had decided to act on it now.

“It is propaganda,” he reiterated, adding that a number of potential customers were left disappointed at the weekend.

“Scores of people arrived to find garages with tapes of BURS on gates. They probably learnt through the media about the operation and wanted to buy before all the cars were impounded.”

The source further revealed that due to the stand-off between the garage owners and the taxman, further jobs have been affected.

“People would come and buy cars then proceed to install sound systems, alarms and tires. But now all this has been affected because no cars are being bought!”

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Politicians clash over Covid-19 meeting

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The fight against Covid-19 stepped into the periphery of partisan politics this week as the absence of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leaders sparked accusations and counter-accusations over their invitation to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s closed meeting.

UDC President, Duma Boko and party vice president, Dumelang Saleshando, were not part of the delegation that attended the three-hour long meeting.

Although Masisi stated that Boko, like other party leaders was invited, the UDC has vehemently denied the claim.

In a press release that was issued last night the UDC said. “We have noted the events that have been evolving around the Covid-19 pandemic, its a serious matter that requires all of us to work genuinely. We value and encourage national dialogue on important matters such as the fight against Covid 19. The truth is that the UDC president has not received any invitation from Office of the President and we call OP to provide proof.”

However, when the UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa was asked about calls made to him by OP, he said, ” I was asked about Boko’s whereabouts by Kaelo Molefe and I told him I was in Phikwe. I asked him to check him at his house. This morning I got another call from Professor Mpho Molomo who said he had Boko’s invitation to a meeting with President Masisi and I suggested that they go to his house, an address which is popular within the government enclave. I indicated to him that I had received a similar call from Kaelo Molefhe and he said he was with him. Kaelo knows where Boko stays having been his associate in the build-up to the 2014 General Elections. So quite frankly I doubt he would say he does not know Boko’s house. As regards Nick and Keorapetse I cannot comment on their behalf, ” explained Mohwasa last night.

Dithapelo Keorapetse too said that the OP was being playful. “Why would they contact me for DGB? They are aware of his PA, VP, Secretary General, Spokesperson and UDC NEC. These are the people from who to check him. Whoever wants the UDC President from me for official things is playing. The state has been to his house several times. How did they suddenly forget his place of abode? Even Kaelo knows Boko’s House from his UDC days, ” said Keorapetse.

The accusations did not go well with the BDP Chairman of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, who expressed concern that the UDC was turning a pandemic into a political mudsling.

He said that all efforts including calls, text, WhatsApp messages to Boko, Moeti, Keorapetse and Boko’s bodyguard were made without any success. “There is a communication trail to prove this. UDC must know when to come to the table and be patriotic on issues on national interest such as COVID-19, its very disappointing for a party calling themselves an alternative government to behave in this manner but Batswana are watching and we know they will punish them for this.”

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BPF opposes 6 months State of Emergency

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Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) president, Biggie Butale, yesterday broke ranks with other opposition leaders parties as a opposed a six-months long State of Emergency proposed by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, at a closed meeting.

Although other party leaders such as the president of Botswana Movement for Democracy, Sidney Pilane, Vice president of Alliance for Progressives, Wynter Mmoltsi and Gaontebale Mokgosi of Real Alternative Party, supported Masisi’s move, BPF took a different stand. “State of Emergency must be used only in extreme circumstances and now we at BPF are not comfortable with it because once it becomes a habit, maybe in the future government may not be as kind as the current government and find an opportunity to abuse it.”

Butale however said that the meeting for all party leaders was useful and that it would go a long way in enhancing Botswana’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Masisi’s call for six months of State of Emergency follows the unrelenting global rise in coronavirus cases of which Botswana has since recorded.

Today Masisi was scheduled to meet cabinet and all members of Parliament as he continies to lobby for a six-months long State of Emergency.

The president has since explained that should the situation improves then they will stick to the initial 28-day lockdown plan which started on the 2nd and ends on April 30th.

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