The prosecution in the marathon case between the state and Louis Nchindo, among others, was last week dealt a deathly blow when former cabinet minister Jacob Nkate turned the tables on the prosecution and defended his decision to allocate the 70 hectare plot 55720 in block 10 to Tourism Development Consortium.
Nkate, who was Minister of Lands at the time, was called in as a star witness for the prosecution, but he greatly reversed their gains when he shifted alliances and gave evidence in support of Nchindo’s defense.
“It is very clear in my mind that the allocation that I made on 12 June 2000 was to Nchindo’s company TDC and not to Debswana. It was a worthy application,” said Nkate, to the chagrin of the prosecution.
Nkate’s statement contradicts the one that he made to then Director of the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime Tymon Katholo in 2008, when he said that he understood TDC to be a Debswana subsidiary, and that Debswana was funding the TDC venture.
He said in court that he gave a statement that he believed to be true at the time, and only changed his stance after realizing the correct sequence of events during the court proceedings.
“After becoming aware of the sequence of events, I must say that I am totally convinced that the allocation was made to Nchindo and not to Debswana. You must understand that there were two similar projects, one sponsored by TDC under Nchindo and the other sponsored by Debswana, of which Nchindo was managing director. Surely this would confuse anyone. I admit to making a false statement under oath, but it was not deliberate,” said Nkate.
Nkate also said that he does not recognize any conflict of interest between master and servant in the matter as the land allocation to TDC was made in 2000, years before the Debswana project was mooted.
“Nchindo’s application started in 1997. Years later Debswana comes with the same project. There was no conflict of interest. Even today, I do not see any conflict of interest,” he said.
Nkate said that his concern at the allocation of such a large piece of land was put to rest by the explanation that the land lay in bad soil and that it had burrow pits, such that it would be rehabilitated at a cost to the investor and later used as a golf course.
Advocate Craig Webster had a field day as he guided Nkate through his witness submissions. Nkate agreed with Webster that the ultimate decision to allocate the plot was his, and that his decision to grant TDC the piece of land was also informed by the input and recommendations of his ministry officials.
He said that the allocation was made to Nchindo on behalf of TDC, and had nothing to do with Debswana. He also agreed with Advocate Webster that the fact that a Debswana address was used was inconsequential because it is normal practice for people to use their work addresses.
Nkate also agreed that Nchindo had explained that TDC was made of South African and international investors, and that some shares would be reserved for purchase by Botswana citizens. Nchindo also said that he was still looking for a reputable hotelier to run the envisaged hotels.
In 12 June 2000, Nkate allocated the piece of land to TDC. He maintained in court that his decision was not in any way influenced by then President Festus Mogae, Vice President Ian Khama or Minister Boometswe Mokgothu.
Advocate Webster also asked Nkate why he did not enquire whether TDC was duly registered to which he replied that considering the level at which the application was submitted, he would not have concerned himself with mundane issues of registration.