Saturday, May 30, 2020

DCEC RAIDS MASISI’S BENCH

President Mokgweetsi Masisi faces a possible push-back from his cabinet after the revamped Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) decided to re-open investigations against a number of Cabinet ministers.

Sunday Standard has turned up documentation revealing that Five Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Members of Parliament and 11 Ministers and assistant ministers in President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s cabinet are being investigated by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime for Corruption (DCEC).

The investigations which cover the period between 2014 and 2017 into bribes and sweetheart deals between Cabinet ministers and investors suggest that the rot at the government enclave runs far deeper than initially.

In one of the cases, a senior minister is being investigated for deviating from public procurement procedures of Morupule power plant and entertaining an unsolicited bid from a company which was not assessed for prequalification.

Another Minister in President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s cabinet is being investigated for conflict of interest in a company called Impilo Pharmaceuticals which was awarded a multi-million Pula tender by Ministry.

A former cabinet minister who is now a backbencher is being investigated for receiving bribes to issue work and residence permits to a company owned by Didarul Bhuyan (Bangladeshi national) in a lucrative sweetheart deal.

Another Minister is currently being investigated for his role in the National Petroleum Fund scandal after it emerged that he received P 50 000.000 through Basis Points Capital from the NPF.

Another Minister is being investigated for the alleged illegal award of a P81 million tender for provision of Engine Maintenance Services of Air Botswana for a period of three years.

The revamped DCEC has also re-opened investigations into alleged corruption leading to the closure of BCL mine in Selibe-Phikwe.

Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama is expected to be interviewed by the graft busters over his role in the closure of the copper and nickel mine. In a curious turn of events, the former president’s nephew tried to sell the BCL Mine diamond licence a few months after government decided to close the mine.

Sunday Standard investigations have turned up an SMS message from Ian Khama’s nephew (name withheld) to a colleague in the industry asking him for help to find a buyer for the BCL diamond mining licence.

The SMS message is one of the many pieces in the jigsaw puzzle that add to the emerging picture that powerful vested interests with political connections pushed for the closure of BCL to lay their hands on the company’s “substantial diamond deposits” discovery in the CKGR.

BCL has 51% in Maibwe Mining, a joint venture with Botswana Diamonds and Future Minerals which owns the licence for the CKGR diamond mining licence.

In May 2016, a few months before government announced the closure of BCL Mine, Botswana Diamonds released a statement announcing a Large Diameter Drilling (LDD) programme for macro diamond evaluation, to be undertaken by Maibwe Diamonds. Sunday Standard has established that BCL had already paid the MSA Group in South Africa P540 000 as deposit for the supervision of the LDD programme.

This was a follow up on diamond drilling conducted in 2015 on PL 186 which found a number of diamondiferous kimberlites. Work on PL186 identified four diamond bearing kimberlite pipes forming a cluster within close proximity to each other.
The pipes were identified through a series of ground-magnetic surveys at 50m spacing and 800m of diamond core drilling from which 305kg of sampled material returned diamonds.

Botswana Diamonds Plc chairman John Teeling said the company already knows that there are substantial diamond deposits on Prospecting Licence Number 186 and wanted to use the upcoming drilling to establish the grade and quality of the gems. While Botswana Diamond Shareholders and BCL managers were rubbing their hands gleefully in anticipation of a windfall from their diamond lucky strike, government crashed the party as a wet blanket and decided to close down the BCL. The then Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security resisted the move to close down BCL and tried to convince Cabinet against the decision.

The then President Lt Gen Ian Khama immediately stepped in and roiled the water with a cabinet reshuffle, appointing Sadique Kebonang to the ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security and moving Mokaila to the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The curious cabinet reshuffle threw mining industry watchers into a confused “who farted? Pass the gas game”. While fingers pointed to Kebonang as the party pooper, the former minister told the Sunday Standard that when he was appointed to the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Cabinet had already made a decision to close down the BCL mine and “there was nothing I could do. Kebonang said “BCL was liquidated during the first Cabinet meeting with the decision having almost been made before I became a Minister. The recommendation came from the Cabinet Ministerial Committee among others. The other recommendation came from Paul Smith of MDCB (state-run Minerals Development Company of Botswana).”

Asked if he was aware of the expert report on the BCL diamond find at the CKGR, Kebonang said “not a single day. I’m not aware of the report. The only person who told me in passing about it was the former CEO.” The former minister says the diamond lucky strike “was just a rumour. I was not officially briefed and therefore had nothing to take to Cabinet. Exploration had not yet been done to determine viability. The only person who briefed me about the discovery and license was the former CEO of BCL Mahupela.”

Kebonang absolved himself from the blame of closing down the mine after it had struck lucrative kimberlites that would have returned it to profitability. He told Sunday Standard that he did not “rule out the possibility that the government could have been sabotaged by government officials in the Maibwe project.”   He said government “officials can break you or build you as the minister.” Kebonang says he “strongly believes it was an act of sabotage because he fails to understand why he was never fully briefed about the discovery of diamonds by BCL.”

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.