The Botswana Development Cooperation (BDC) board has rejected the Corporation’s former Managing Director, Maria Nthebolang and Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo’s request for the latter to have access to a forensic report that allegedly implicated her in wrongdoings while she was still heading the parastatal, Lobatse High Court heard on Monday.
This emerged in a case in which Nthebolan is suing Mmegi and the Botswana Guardian newspapers over articles that implicated her in malpractices and bad corporate governance while she was the BDC Managing Director.
Under examination by her lawyer Busang Manewe of Bogopa, Manewe and Tobedza Attorneys, Nthebolan told Lobatse High Court Judge Abednigo Tafa that she had on a number of occasions requested the Board to furnish her with a report by ENS Forensics (Pty) Ltd, of South Africa which was hired by the Board to audit the operations of the Corporation.
“Time and again, I requested my employer to give me the report and even up to this day I have never been given the report. The Board refused with the report saying it was confidential,” said Nthebolan.
She added that “I wrote to the minister Kenneth Matambo that we should be given the report. The Minister wrote to the Board to say it’s fair for these people to respond to the allegations deemed to be corrupt practices. The Board refused saying it was confidential.”
She said the auditors of the report had made a disclaimer to the effect that the report was “for the sole use of the BDC Board only. This report should not be used by anybody as it is not a report for the general accepted standards. It also stated that some claims made in it needed to be investigated further. The auditors are disclaiming their own report.”
Asked by Tafa if she had ‘sight of the report’ at a later stage, Nthebolang said she got access to the report through another suit against the Botswana Guardian Newspaper.
Nthebolan said for the Board to have acted on something (disciplinary action or dismissal), Minister Matambo had asked the Board to furnish her with the report first “and that is why we parted amicably,” she said in reference to her quitting her plum post at BDC.
“They had no basis to fire me or for me to resign. They never disciplined me because they had refused with the report. I’m also not aware of any corruption practices at Glass Company,” she said in reference to the Corporation’s former business arm – Fengyue Glass Manufacturers.
Nthebolan told the Court that she was aware of yet another report that was compiled by a Parliamentary Committee which had investigated alleged malpractices at BDC.┬á She described as false reports in the media that millions of Pula were discovered in her bank account from unknown sources.
“I have never received P1 million from an unknown source,” she said. Asked by Manewe she reacts to reports alleging corruption practice on her part, Nthebolan described herself as a sad woman.
“One of the commentators online, after reading the story described me as mosadi wa legodu (loosely translated; a lady thief. They said I should go to court and I believe that was what the newspaper intended to achieve,” she said. Nthebolan said she suffered emotionally as people at her church and some family members avoided her.
“The newspapers hurt me, my family and those close to me. They did not believe what they read in the newspapers but the papers kept on writing. The damages I’m seeking will never compensate me. These media reports have made me suffer and damaged my standing in the society,” she said.
Nthebolan further told the Court that last year around March she applied for a job with a bank in South Africa and after the screening process they turned down her application on the basis that she was implicated in corruption claims as alleged by the media in Botswana.
“The bank used an agency to interview me in Johannesburg and on their table were some excerpts from Botswana media about the alleged corruption at BDC. I had proceeded to the top three. ┬áI told them that in Botswana we didn’t believe what had been written about me in the media because I was not given a platform to respond to the allegations and that is why I’m suing,” she said.
Nthebolan added that yet in another article, a commentator said “Barata madi Basadi ba, a ba ye toronkong (loosely translated; they like money these ladies let them go to jail.”
Nthebolan also took issue with some of the words such as “loot” that she said were used in the contentious articles saying “my understanding of loot is like you have stolen something. Such an insinuation defamed me and make me sad.” ┬áThe case continues
Mmegi is represented by Omphemetse Motumise of Moeletsi and Motumise Attorneys.