Saturday, October 24, 2020

How Khama bought support for Lesotho

President Ian Khama as the Chairman of SADC may have played an important role in turning the regional bloc’s official harsh stance to soft on Lesotho; the Botswana Government has secretly made food donations to the Lesotho Government.  

Botswana normally makes its donations public and the donations receive extensive coverage in state run Btv and Daily News; the donation which was made in March was not publicized.

Leaked documents also suggest that Botswana donated trucks to the Lesotho Government that were used to transport food aid.

It emerges in one of the documents that Lesotho Revenue Authority’s Acting Commissioner Realeboha Mathaba that certain requirements have to be met before the trucks could be cleared and registered in Lesotho. “I understand that the trucks are already in Lesotho, but they still need to be cleared for purposes of registration,” stated Mathaba.

In response to a letter from Mathaba, Chief Legal & Policy Officer & Board Secretary at Lesotho Revenue Authority Dr Seth Macheli required “full information as to the specific purposes of the trucks in relation to drought relief.”

“At first blush, it is not easily clear how trucks will be used for drought relief. Schedule II(1)(f) to the VAT Act 2001 does allow exemption from VAT in respect of goods imported for the relief of distressed persons in cases of famine or other national disasters,” he stated.

He added that “We would want to believe that drought is indeed a national disaster. The information should also indicate the recipient Ministry/Department, presumably one involved in drought relief work, for the trucks.”

Macheli also required “Some proof from the Government of the Republic of Botswana to the effect that the trucks are donated pursuant to the call for assistance in drought relief.”

He added that “It would perhaps also be useful for us, if the assumption for VAT exemption is correct, to be provided with the name of a person we will be dealing with from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

Details as to why the donations were not publicized are sketchy but diplomatic sources claim that Botswana was attempting to pacify Lesotho following SADC’s decision threatening to sanction Lesotho when it was reluctant to implement the bloc’s Commission of Inquiry recommendations.

Botswana whose  President Ian Khama chairs SADC is said to have been seeking Lesotho’s support for its candidate for African Union Chairperson position, Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi. Following the donations to Lesotho, Venson-Moitoi also visited Botswana’s ‘estranged’ neighbor, Zimbabwe for support.

Asked for a comment, Venson-Moitoi said there was nothing untoward as far as the donation to Lesotho was concerned. She said Botswana normally publicizes the donations depending on the amount of what is being donated.  

Venson-Moitoi said she did not have detailed information about the donations and referred this publication to the Botswana High Commission in Pretoria South Africa. The ambassador in Pretoria could not be reached.

In a letter dated 3 March 2016, Botswana’s diplomat in Pretoria, a certain K Mokoto noted that “Botswana Government has donated sum (sic) foodstuffs to the Kingdom of Lesotho as Drought Relief Aid.”

The letter which is complete with the number plates of the trucks, name of drivers, their passport numbers  load descriptions and estimated tones was addressed to Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho immigration and Tax Revenue authorities to assist with smooth clearance of the goods across borders.

The documents show that the first truck with registration number BX 95 2149 (Volvo FH 12) was loaded with 20 tones of samp and 20 tones of beans while the second truck with registration number BX 94 1014 (Volvo FH 12) was loaded with 20 tones of maize meal.

The third truck with registration number BX 988935 (Nissan UD) was loaded with 10 tones of maize meal while the fourth truck registration number BX 106671 (Tata) was loaded with 6 tones of beef, maize meal and cooking coil.

In a letter dated 29 February, Lesotho’s Principal for Foreign Affairs Mathoriso Mohaneng wrote to the Lesotho Revenue Office requesting for clearance of donated good from Botswana.

“The donated aid (four trucks) is received in response to the Appeal by the Right Honorable, Dr Phakalita Bethuel Mosisili for humanitarian assistance following drought in Lesotho,” stated Mohaneng.

Another document dated 5th March 2016, shows that the donation was handed over handed to Lesotho’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Tlohang Sekhamane by Botswana High Commissioner to Lesotho Zenene Senombe on 8th March at the Headquarters of the food management unit.

The documents also suggest that the trucks were also donated to Lesotho. I understand that the trucks are already in Lesotho, but they still need to be cleared for purposes of registration. 

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