This past week, the Honourable Member of Parliament for Gaborone South, Mr. Akanyang Magama, tabled a question in parliament to the effect that The Sunday Standard had received up to P1.55 million in CEDA loan.
He also wanted to know if it is the CEDA policy to fund newspapers and which others have since benefited.
Although the Honourable MP was to later withdraw his question, the said contents had, nonetheless, already found way to the Parliament Order paper of Thursday August 2, 2007.
We do not know and probably shall never know why in the end he withdrew his question.
But we deem it only fair and in order that we give our side of the facts as we know them, especially because notwithstanding the withdrawal of the question, false impressions have already been created, not just by wrong figures contained in the Honourable MP’s question but also the insidious insinuations that form its part.
But before we give our side, we want to advise Honourable Magama to be careful in future and not to allow himself to be used by his friends in one of the BNF factions who have commercial interests in the media business.
Such people are clearly all out to use his position to fight their competition wars. We doubt that is part of the MP’s functions.
We say so because other than ill will and malice we cannot come up with any plausible explanation to account for the honourable MP’s question given that other publications, including those owned by very senior members of his BNF had been receiving CEDA loans well before The Sunday Standard did.
Our position is that allowing his factional friends in the BNF, who have interests in the media, to use his position as Member of Parliament to stave off competition would amount to gross abuse of parliamentary privilege.
We do not believe that is Magama’s intention.
We, however, would want to take this opportunity to publicly request the Honourable Magama, in the near future, to table a question in parliament asking the Minister of Finance how many of his colleagues in parliament have received CEDA loans, and how many of them are in arrears. It would also help to know how much those arrears are.
That is a kind of question that we think would endear Magama to the people of Gaborone South whose interests, we hope, he is still representing in parliament.
That said, we want to say it, perhaps for the millionth time, that indeed The Sunday Standard, through the Holding Company, Tsodilo Services, has at one point in the past accessed a CEDA loan.
All of that loan money went into buying out Peo Holdings, who were a founding shareholder and chief financier of The Sunday Standard.
The important thing to underscore however, is that Sunday Standard is so far honouring its obligations by way of repaying the CEDA loan.
We are more than convinced that we will finish the repayment well before the mandatory seven year period.
We have nothing to hide and, as such, will be quite happy to receive the Honourable MP for Gaborone South at our offices to share with him whatever information he may want regarding our CEDA loan.
The important thing that Mr. Magama should note is that Sunday Standard was not the first publication to get a CEDA loan.
Other newspapers applied before us; including those owned by BNF members and sympathisers.
Mr. Magama should have known this before he brought his question to parliament.
Again we cannot emphasise enough the fact that in principle we have nothing against Honourable Magama enquiring about the use of public funds.
CEDA money is public money.
What we, however, find dishonourable is Magama’s cherry picking. Why Sunday Standard?
It is sad that the public shall never know true motivations behind Mr. Magama’s question because he chose to withdraw it.
But for us as a newspaper we strongly feel that, notwithstanding Magama’s withdrawal, false insinuations have already been made that somehow The Sunday Standard received the money it did not deserve.
Our information is that CEDA loan upward ceiling is P2 million.
We are not sure if we will not be breaking CEDA’s code of practice were we to disclose how much we received, but on our part, we have no problem at all disclosing the amount of money with which CEDA favoured us. Suffice to say we received far less than the P1.55 million Honourable Magama mentions in his aborted question.
We received the money after we submitted what we still believe was a loan application that met the CEDA standards, especially the cardinal requirement of viability.
Our application was based on our conviction that the newspaper was a viable project that, if properly managed, could be profitable, with a great potential to bring spectacular returns on investments, not to speak of handsomely rewarding the shareholders.
Our ability to honour our obligations with CEDA has proved us right.
Once again, we hope that in future Mr. Magama will be very careful not to compromise himself, his position and indeed the parliamentary integrity by turning himself into a willing and gullible instrument recklessly exploited by his BNF factional friends with well known commercial interests in the media.