Saturday, September 26, 2020

Former NDB CEO misled VP Khama about farmer’s loan

During a period of time (2006) that Vice President Ian Khama was supposed to be making problems vanish in the blink of an eye, Tjako Mpulubusi found himself among people making a beeline to his private office at the Office of the President.

Mpulubusi, a former Director of the National Museum and Art Gallery (as it then was), had taken out a loan from the National Development Bank (NDB) which he had trouble repaying. After a period of time, the bank decided to auction off his property in the Shoshong area ÔÇô which included movable property on a dairy farm. Some 12 years later, it turns out that the sale of the movable property was done illegally, which means that the information that then National Development Bank Chief Executive Officer, Oaitse Ramasedi provided Khama with on Mpulubusi was inaccurate. In a December 6, 2006 letter to Khama that was through NDB’s Board Chairman, Ramasedi wrote: “Since the farm did not raise sufficient funds to settle the debt, the Bank was within its right to proceed against more properties belonging to the debtor.” A perfectly legitimate point to make except that the farm was never auctioned off. What was auctioned off were movables on the farm but as Mpulubusi’s lawyers, Bayford & Associates, are now contending, the auction did not have legal sanction.

Years later, when Khama had ascended and left the presidency, when Ramasedi has long left NDB, it has emerged that documents that the process of selling property that included a herd of dairy cows, an ostrich, three pigs, a deep freezer, cooling tank, pasteurising machine and Lister engine was unlawful. The bank has itself confirmed that to Bayford & Associates: “National Development Bank have made it clear that it only sanctioned the sale of the piece of land and not the movables on the farm.”  Ramasedi would have been relying on a bank’s representative, Deputy Sheriff Keitumetse Waheng, whose conduct is now the subject of a High Court case. While the Bank says it never sanctioned the sale of movables, Waheng generated a legal document (Notice of Sale in Execution) whose authenticity is being questioned. The document was never published in the Government Gazette and bears the purported signature of NDB’s lawyer.

Ramasedi’s letter says that twice in 2004, the auction sale “failed to attract buyers” and that on the third attempt, the farm was sold to “the highest bidder” at P140 000. The latter was actually raised from the movables through said controversial auction whose notice appears to be fraudulent.

All along, Mpulubusi has contended that Waheng purposefully aborted the auction when prospective buyers turned up and that the “highest bidder” was actually the only bidder. He was Bathasetse Merementsi, a Botswana Democratic Party in the Central District Council. In terms of the law, Deputy Sheriffs are required to compile a list of auction participants and their contact details. While Ramasedi claimed that “more than people attended the auction”, documentary evidence of such people has never been placed in the public record. Mpulubusi insists no such evidence exists because Merementsi was the only participant.

Interestingly, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has cleared Merementsi of criminal wrongdoing in the matter. On the basis of his conviction that Merementsi connived with Waheng, Mpulubusi reported the matter to the DCEC and at one point got to meet the former Director General, Rose Seretse, who has since been redeployed to the Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority. DCEC investigators would also meet Mpulubusi in Mahalapye where he produced some more documents to back up his case. It turns out that all such effort didn’t help.

“These documents were analysed and cross-checked accordingly and they couldn’t change the complexion of the case. As such, the investigations carried out did not reveal any relationship between the Sheriff and Mr. Merementsi that could amount to conflict. The enquiries could also not reveal any element of corruption perpetrated by either the bank employees or court officials who handled the matter. This communique therefore informs you that the enquiries in the matter were closed due to insufficient evidence,” reads a letter from DCEC.

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