The chairperson of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s Communications and International Relations Committee Thapelo Pabalinga’s company was given over half a million by Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) to support of his annual Gaborone International Music (GIMC) festival business.
Following a lead that Pabalinga’s GIMC had received P540 thousand (P540 000.00) from KBL, this publication sought clarification from the giant brewery. The beverages company KBL, which is partly owned by Botswana Development Corporation, a 100% state owned investment outfit has confirmed in its written responses to this publication that, “KBL sponsored the Gaborone International Music and Culture Week for roughly the above-mentioned amount.”
At the request of Pabalinga this publication sent a questionnaire to him seeking clarification of the amounts he received on behalf of his company. In the written response Pabalinga contradicted KBL’s assertion, stating that his event has never received an amount of P540 000 from KBL.
“GIMC has never received funding of that magnitude from KBL, infact we so wish they could fund us for such an amount as sponsorship amounts are always far less than that for events in Botswana,” Pabalinga told this publication. Pabalinga opted not to disclose whether his company had received any or what amount at all from KBL.
This publication had recently revealed that the Ministry of Health un-procedurally paid Pabalinga’s company Leapfrog P300, 00-00 for the Theatre and Choral Show with money from the controversial Alcohol Levy Fund. The Fund has been at the centre of controversy after raking billions from Batswana due to escalated alcohol prices initiated by the Khama administration. KBL as the largest levy payer has continuously decried the effects of the levy on its operations, affecting its profit margins on yearly basis. KBL’s complaints on the levy have fallen on deaf ears as the government has continued to escalate the tariffs.
By 2016 KBL had coughed up approximately P760 million on levy charges which led to reduction of products on the market, job losses, closure of its Lobatse plant and various distribution outlets across the country, the company states.
Last week this publication brought to light how P1 billion from the levy fund, which has not been externally audited since 2009 was used to finance various government organisations, non-governmental organisations and performing arts groups.
Pabalinga’s company which was paid P300 000 in 2017 from the fund is not mentioned in the documents before parliament where the Ministry of Health was called on to account for all Fund expenditures since its inception.
Pabalinga has dismissed allegations that the funding from KBL to him was supposed to be a sponsorship for the BDP, which allegedly never reached the party coffers. Some disgruntled party members are said to be up in arms upon learning about the funding. “Apparently the BDP never got the money and we are aware that it was requested using the party’s name,” an insider alleged.
During investigations by this publications into the allegations of receiving money from KBL and to ascertain for whom the money was intended Pabalinga gave on the record responses before demanding that we send him a questionnaire. Speaking to writer Pabalinga said contrary to the allegation that KBL funds were intended for the BDP the funds were for his company Leapfrog which manages the GIMC event. The verbal response (recorded) does not reconcile with his subsequent written explanations.
KBL’s hand in Politics
The behemoth brewer, KBL has also confirmed to this publication that in 2009 it funded all political parties including the Botswana Democratic Party to the tune of P506, 343. The proceeds were calculated on BDP’s 50.63% of the popular vote at the time. According to KBL the initiative was aimed at contributing to the country’s political progress by positively advancing multi-party democracy in Botswana while aligning with the needs and aspirations of stakeholders and civil society. The sum of P2 million was distributed among the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
“This was done in line with transparency, ethical standards and executed through a fair system that was discussed with all party representatives before being rolled out,” KBL’s Communications & Better World Manager Masegonyana Madisa in a pertinently crafted public relations response.
Opposition politician, UDC spokesperson Moeti Mhwasa also confirmed the revelation.
The P2 million initiative by KBL came immediately after it lost the political battle to stop government from introducing the levy on alcohol in 2009 with the BDP being the largest beneficiary according to the formula used by the brewer.
The Minister of Basic Education Bagalatia Arone has however criticized this initiative when he was still an opposition Member of Parliament tabling a bill to introduce the political party funding law. He told parliament that the noble gesture by KBL to fund political parties was a faulty model.
“The only problem with the model is that the party with a higher percentage takes a larger share, diluting the argument of levelling the playing field.”
Arone told parliament at the time that they (BCP) would prefer a model where all deserving parties are given an equal share. The legislator said that the BCP proposal for the criteria of funding political parties is that only parties with a representation in parliament or those that have gained a five percent popular vote in the last immediate general election should be funded.
The MP said while public funding is very important for a working democracy it is also a potential source of corrupt influences. He said there is need for explicit rules to prevent and detect corruption. He revealed that many countries have decided to introduce a system of regulation political party funding to ensure a level playing field for competing political parties and avoid unfair advantages especially for the ruling party that benefits mainly from companies that are in return rewarded with government tenders. Arone’s motion was defeated by majority of BDP legislators and never saw the light of day. He has since dumped opposition and joined the ruling party.
This publication has previously reported on the noncompliance of the Electoral Act and the failure of the Speaker and the Attorney General to take remedial action against all parliamentarians who have not complied with electoral financial disclosure requirements.