The proposed Trust Property Control Bill could help enhance Gaborone North MP Haskins Nkaigwa’s chances of coming out tops in the 2019 fight for his constituency. Speaking in Parliament this past week the Alliance for Progressives (AP) legislator believes his opponents at the constituency have an unfair advantage thanks to large amounts of funds the origins of which remain questionable.
“In 2019 I will be competing against candidates with very deep pockets whose funds I cannot even begin to imagine where they come from,” Nkaigwa said. “This is why I say this Bill will come in handy for me.”
He said the Bill, proposed by Minister of Defense, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi, would assist the public to trace the origins of large amounts of funds found in some people’s Trust and Foundation accounts.
“We have been speaking about the missing funds at the National Petroleum Funds (NPF) that cannot be accounted for,” the Gaborone North legislator said. “I know this Bill may give some people including President Mokgweetsi Masisi sleepless nights as it stands to expose irregularities in the use of public funds by the ruling elite.” Nkaigwa, who is likely to face BDP’s Mpho Balopi and UDC’s Sydney Pilane in the 2019 general elections, said the Bill would shed light on the real mandate of suspicious Trusts and Foundations owned by those in the ruling party.
So desperate is Nkaigwa to see this bill taking effect that he believes the proposed 12 months grace period after commencement of the Act for existing trust property to have been registered with the Master of the High Court is way too generous.
“I believe the 12 month period is way too long,” he objected. “Elections are just around the corner. We want the law to take effect sooner. President Masisi should assent to it as soon as possible.”
The MP believes six months should be sufficient enough for existing Trusts to have complied with the law. “Why 12 months? This only serves to perpetuate looting. In fact I believe three months should be adequate because if a Trust or Foundation has been operating accordingly it shouldn’t take more than three months for them to have put things in order.”
He said the Trust Funds and Foundations are being used to fund political campaigns. “I am not particularly saying it only happens in the ruling party,” Nkaigwa said. “Even within opposition parties there are those with loaded Trust and Foundation accounts with funds the source of which you would never know.”
Selebi Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse echoed Nkaigwa’s observation that funds from the Trusts and Foundations were being used for political funding.
“People have become wealthy because of Trusts,” Keorapetse said.“Campaigns have been funded through public money which is diverted into Trusts. We have heard that Camp Dubai was possibly funded by money which was paid into a trust account of a law firm of a naturalized Motswana Lawyer. Money was paid into that account and that account was used to defeat my homeboy who was running for Chairmanship.”
Francistown West MP Wynter Mmolotsi also said the Bill would guard against the influence of foreign interests who would be funding politicians in order to promote their own selfish interests.
When presenting the Bill Defence Minister Kgathi said the objective wasto regulate the control of Trusts. He said the Bill wasnecessary as currently, there was no statutory law regulating the control of trusts in Botswana. “This means that up to this time there is minimal vetting and control of Trusts and similar legal arrangements such as Foundations in this country. To continue as country without statutory law regulating and controlling trust property is to provide a possible money laundering stage on which illegal activities can be disguised through such legal arrangements.”
He said while most Trusts and similar legal arrangements are set up for legitimate and noble causes, research by the International Financial Organizations such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) indicate that these corporate vehicles can and are being used, intentionally or unintentionally for money laundering and terrorist financing activities. “An environment such as ours in Botswana, where trust arrangements are not subjected to accountability and transparency requirements, can facilitate undesirable results; including even denial of rights accruing to legitimate beneficiaries under trust instruments made in good faith.”