Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The plot thickens over Debswana’s inner workings

The intrigue behind the P110 million law suit against Debswana Diamond Company has deepened.

Its former managing director Balisi Bonyongo is set to shed light on the battle for the control of the diamond miner.

The plot is expected to unravel when Bonyongo testifies this week.

Last week, Infotrac-the contractor who was reportedly hired to run a background check on Bonyongo’s successor added another layer of intrigue to the case by alleging that Bonyongo sought to sabotage plans for Albert Milton to be the next managing director of Debswana.

Testifying while being interrogated by his attorney, Kgosietsile Ngakaagae, Infotrac managing director, Mompoloki Motshidi said it was untrue that there was no need to lobby Milton.

The Court had heard that Milton was the only candidate earmarked for the position of the next managing director of Debswana.

But Motshidi denied as untrue that there was no need for his company to have run a background check on Milton as well as lobbying for him. He told the Court that Bonyongo would have sabotaged Milton on account of allegations that he had an affair with his wife.

“Bonyongo would use that against Milton,” he said saying the fears were raised by Debswana former head of security Mpho Kewagae, one Mazwigwila and Keitumetse and confirmed by Milton.

Earlier on while being interrogated by Debswana’s lawyer, John Carr-Hartley if he was aware if the only other applicant invited for the position of managing director was Lynnette Armstrong, Motshidi answered in the affirmative.

Armstrong is currently the acting managing director of Debswana.

Asked by Carr-Hartely if he was aware that Armstrong withdrew her candidacy even before the process could start, Motshidi answered in the negative.

“She withdrew her candidacy in November 2017. Since she withdrew her candidacy, it would have been a one-horse race. I put it to you that there was no need to lobby,” said Carr-Hartely. He said the only person who would need to lobby would be Milton himself, to which Motshidi denied as untrue.

Carr-Hartely also put it to Motshidi that lobbying is aimed at seeking influence and decision makers, to which Motshidi agreed. “The decision maker is the shareholders of Debswana,” said Carr-Hartely. Asked why he did not take the trouble to find out how the managing director of Debswana was appointed, Motshidi said this was unnecessary. He agreed that at the time he lobbied President Mokgweetsi Masisi, he was Vice President.

On why he lobbied former Director of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Isaac Kgosi as he would not exert influence, Motshidi told the Court that, “considering Kgosi’s profile and network, he would be of great value for this exercise.”

As to why he did not lobby Debswana Board members, Motshidi said this was also unnecessary.

Falling short of lecturing the Court on the cunning world of spies from the cloak-and-dagger operations, Motshidisi said, “For us, who we lobby have relationships, have multiple contacts in their network. Lobbying can happen at any levels. I can lobby from a cleaner to complete our task.”

Carr-Hartely put it to Motshidi that none would believe him as far as the contract fee of P110 million for the project was concerned.
“Debswana did,” Motshidi replied, adding that the fee was to be paid after completion of the project.

Also testifying before Justice Abednego Tafa, Debswana acting senior security manager, Tawana Chilume was at pains when asked if he was aware of a case in which Debswana had had reportedly installed surveillance cameras in its toilet.

Initially Chilume said he was not aware of such a case. But when Justice Tafa requested that Ngakaagae rephrased his question, Chilume confirmed that, “Yes I’m aware of the Orapa case.”  Asked further if the cameras had been removed or if the “situation still persists’, Chilume would neither confirm nor deny this.  “As this was something that was before court, I assume that in essence of decency they were removed,” he said.

Carr-Hartely sought to know if some surveillance cameras that Infotrac had  at one stage procured for Debswana were used to spy on Mine Workers union members, he said “not that I know if they were used on Mine Workers Union.” 

As the interrogation continued, Ngakaagae suggested that Chilume would not be privy to details surrounding the contentious P110 million contract between Debswana and Infotrac to which he answered in the affirmative.

“You would never be in a position to confirm things that your boss (Mpho Kewagae) never discussed with you?” asked Ngakaagae, to which Chilume said, “That is correct.”

Kewagae, who is Debswana’s former head of security, is said to have been instrumental in the alleged covert deal between Infotrac and Debswana.

Asked if Kewakae, Keitumetse (former head of security, Jwaneng mine) and one Mazwigwila (former head of human resources) told “you that they represented Debswana, you wouldn’t take them lightly,” Chilume said, “Yes.”


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