When he first made headlines in Botswana it was in the Courts of law when he was fighting allegations of money laundering by Botswana crime busters.
This is Simbi Phiri, clean and fresh from his Court victory that found him squeaky clean against the allegations brought by the crime busters.
Now vindicated Phiri tells The Monitor that the allegations did not shock him but made him angry because according to him he knew the sources of the misinformation.
As a highly successful businessman in the cutthroat world of the construction industry where rivalry and competition can take nasty forms, Phiri says he already knew his enemies from day one.
First, Phiri says he was awaiting news of a multi-billion tender from Botswana after his company made an unsolicited tender in an area where his company’s specialty is unrivalled in the whole of South Africa.
Phiri says another war came from a close family member in Botswana, who is highly placed but had become angry and nasty after he was denied a stake in his company directorship in Botswana. Phiri says what hurt him most is being referred to as a foreigner in Botswana, the land of his mother, his land.
“This is my country, Botswana is my mother’s land, ke Motswana. I’m hurting that the first time the media of my mother’s land ever reports about me, it is malicious.
They call me a foreigner; spread lies about me, and even fail to acknowledge that ke Motswana,” says Phiri, with a deep and thunderous voice that sounds like a lion’s roar when he speaks.
“It hurts me and my family. I want to tell Batswana that ke ngwana wa Motswana, mo Botswana; I’m from Tonota, my mother ke Motswana; my father is Malawian.
I’m a citizen of two countries. Botswana has amended its Citizenship Act. I will remain a Motswana for life that people cannot take from me.
“I’m the son to Census Maposa, the daughter of Gatzha Maposa whose first cousins are Metlholo and Makgekgenene. My mother was the first cousin to Kagiso’s father – Thuso, Batang, Lemme, Philipe and Ted Makgekgenene. I grew up in Gaborone with Ted and Thuso. My first jobs were in Botswana before I got into self employment,” narrates Phiri.
Phiri says he knows where his troubles in Botswana came from.
“Some of them are from the family. Some of my own family members in Botswana
He is particularly unhappy with one family member who holds very high ranking position in one of Botswana’s crime-busting agencies.
In the family, Phiri singles out a certain highly placed family member as being behind the false allegations.
Phiri says he is not entirely surprised that the family member this time used the very powerful position of crime-busting to implicate him.
According to Phiri, this is a family member that he has accommodated in his mansion, that not long ago he gave P400,000, that he also once paid over P230,000 holiday stay in Cape Town.
“I did so because the couple is my blood cousins even though at the same holiday they accused me of stealing a R3,000 camera from them.
After that we didn’t speak for five years until recently when one of them fell very sick and they remembered me.”
Phiri says it was funny because the crime he was accused of is something that a man of his stature won’t do.
”I’m not looking down on my country, but seriously how would the South African taxman not know if I was dodging tax, only to be caught by crime agency of another country for something that supposedly transpired in South Africa...Is it not funny that in South Africa where I made all my money I’m not suspected of such an activity...but in South Africa, they are very smart, you cannot cheat their system, they would smoke you out early and easily.”
Phiri says despite being labelled a foreigner by some, he had constantly been coming in and out of Botswana to attend to various pressing social issues and not just to look for business.
“Like any Motswana, I regularly come home for funerals, weddings, tombstone unveilings.
Infact, I have spent P350,000 erecting about seven tombstones of my relatives, including three at Tafa’s family, two at Masunga, one in Tutume, my cousin Patrick Chivese’s son, Kitsisi’s death.
I got a life in Botswana; that’s my country. You can’t chase me away from the land of my mother. Maybe I can be chased anywhere in Southern Africa, but not in my country.”