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Did Tshekedi corruptly aid the rot at BTO?

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While the answer may not always be obvious, it is difficult to accept that so many gaping holes in the manner in which TK oversees the rot at BTO can be accidental. When he was appointed to the Ministry, people dismissing as “jealousy” the suggestion that his appointment was nepotistic- argued that he was appointed on merit. Part of the merit was the idea that he was capable of running the affairs of the ministry in compliance with requisite laws and good faith.

 

TSAONE SEGAETSHO

The unilateralism and disregard of due process by Tourism Minister, Tshekedi Khama, as exposed at Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) hearings at the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises [PCSB]- may not be accidental.
The body of evidence presented by former CEO Thabo Dithebe and Permeant Secretary Ellias Magosi points to bad corporate governance practices, nepotism and corruption.  Before he was called by the committee, TK- was often held to be different from his brother, President Ian Khama, who critics have labelled as a draconian and nepostic. However, comments by Magosi and Dithebe that the atmosphere at the ministry is poisoned as they work “under duress” for a boss who is “operational” may be the first evidence that TK may be no different.
Last Wednesday, TK was called back by the parliamentary committee to clarify the preferential treatment which his ministry has extended to ASUIA, an obscure UK company purported to be linked to top politicians in Botswana. It emerged in parliament that the company was directly appointed without tendering nor the approval of a board, a fact happily cited by TK in a letter to former CEO Dithebe instructing him to appoint it:
“…You are accordingly instructed to implement the instruction, inclusive of directly appointing ASUIA as a service provider for inbound insurance under the terms of and conditions stipulated in the existing contract, save for any reference to BTO approval,” reads a directive to Dithebe from the minister.
This fact prompted Samson Moyo Guma, the committee chair, to evoke the telling magnanimity of reverting to the Attorney General- who he asked whether it was legal for Asuia to be given a contract without cabinet approval and for a litany of decisions to be made in the absence of a board.  “It is illegal,” he was advised before turning to BTO who he told: “You are not law unto yourselves.”
Dithebe was actually taking the sting of words that should have been directed to TK, the minister, who did not actually attend the session as he was said to be in Morocco- a fact which only worked to incense Guma. So worked up was Guma that he threatened to subpoena the minister as he said he was not above the law and “not an exception.”
Guma’s irritation with the way things are done at the BTO is also not accidental. His committee did a good job of exposing deliberate disregard for due process and questionable promotions. For instance, an analyses of the place occupied by Jillian Blackbeard in the parastatal as it emerged before the committee, shows that she was illegally given responsibility to sign a P17 million contract with aDubai company, Gafa Media, whilst a mere Marketing Officer. On Wednesday, it emerged in parliament that she was promoted by a committee she sat on- which discussed and approved her elevation to an executive position. Jillian is now BTO’s Executive Manager- Marketing. Her new salary, incidentally, is P49 000, her former CEO Dithebe earned P42 000, seven thousand Pula less than Jillian.
Legal Officer Tswelelo Kebatile was promoted from Band 5 to Band 4 and now also earns P49 000, a salary which like Jillians far surpasses that of the CEO and Permanent Secretary. “There was no CAB memo issued to show that cabinet has approved expenditure for these promotions and didn’t pass through parliament,” retorted Guma on hearing these revelations.
Guma says these mistakes and omissions are not accidental. In the previous sitting, he said the minister’s failure to appoint a board was deliberate because it was meant to create a vacuum through which to usurp roles and set aside procedure. While Dithebe was enduring a turbulent time at BTO and is heading out because he is “frustrated”, other people suspected to be a cabal of friends with deep connections are having the time of their lives as TK’s executive power is working magic for them.
While this may read like a mere conspiracy theory and casual sensationalism, it is being strongly argued by some analysts who talked to this publication that what emerged in parliament with regards to BTO shows how the relationships of the ruling elite are maintained, and that they are often maintained at the expense of the nation. Jillian is the daughter of Botswana’s High Commissioner in the UK, Roy Blackbeard. Blackbeard has been at the post for the past 18 straight years. Another member of the Blackbeard family, Timmothy Blackbeard is currently Regional Director of Wildlife in Ngamiland and was appointed by TK.
Even if one does not want to accept the theory which is mooted by some- that the Blackbeards enjoy preferential treatment because it is a reward to Roy after he vacated the Serowe North constituency for President Khama; there is enough basis to prompt questions on why members of the same family enjoy special treatment.
It also emerged in parliament that TK wanted Changu Newman, the wife of Botswana Ambassador to America, to be appointed Tourism attachee at the same embassy. However, Dithebe told parliament that she was underqualified and had failed psychometric tests. This, Dithebe suggested, did not stop TK from trying to use his executive weight to corner him into hiring Changu anyway. In fact, Dithebe suspects that this issue is the genesis of his troubles at BTO. It also lands some credibility to suspicions that he was being pressured to appoint Changu because she is the wife of Ambassador David Newman, who himself is said to be a highly placed connection of the Khamas.
Magosi, the permanent secretary, also revealed before the committee that TK knowingly hired at BTO a certain Sally-Anne Follett-Smith, a UK national formerly with Wilderness Safaris, even though she did not have a work permit. While TK is said to have requested a permit for her, the request was turned down by the Labour ministry. In fact, Follett-Smith was arrested last month for working without a permit. The question then in this case is, why would TK risk his integrity over a person like this?
Might it have something to do with her history working for a company in which his brother, President Khama has business interests in? Khama is the director of Baobab Safari Lodge which is part of Wilderness Holdings Limited, a company that owns Wilderness Safaris. He also owns a 5% stake in Linyanti Investments, a subsidiary of Wilderness Holdings Limited.
While the answer may not always be obvious, it is difficult to accept that so many gaping holes in the manner in which TK oversees the rot at BTO can be accidental. When he was appointed to the Ministry, people dismissing as “jealousy” the suggestion that his appointment was nepotistic- argued that he was appointed on merit. Part of the merit was the idea that he was capable of running the affairs of the ministry in compliance with requisite laws and good faith.
However, parliament has all but demonstrated that TK enabled some of the illegality rife at BTO despite him trying to place blame on Dithebe. It is also difficult to argue for TK’s integrity after President Khama failed to heed Magosi reports in which he sought to make him aware of his brother’s bad corporate practices at BTO.

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