In 2021 COVID-19 did not miraculously disappear. For a second year running, local news headlines have been dominated by the pandemic. But some non-COVID-19 related stories did make a notable impact too. Mmegi Staff Writer, CHAKALISA DUBE looks at some of his stories that made an impression this year
Fraudulent supplies allegations hit FCC
My investigation early this year unearthed that the council reportedly spent over P312,000 on fake peanut butter supplies. The name of the company that supplied the allegedly ‘fake’ peanut butter is Magdinvel Pty Ltd, which is domicile at the Gerald Estates. The company delivered a ‘fake’ product on December 18, 2020. Despite this highly questionable transaction, the company was paid four days after delivery. In a bid to evade detection, the company allegedly designed its own logo similar to the original Goody Thokoman imprint and used it on the packaging of the allegedly (fake) peanut butter that it duly supplied to the council.
Some officials at the council figured out that the logo was not the original Goody Thokoman one as it lacked some key features of the original and alerted Mmegi about the cheating. Pictures leaked to Mmegi also showed serious disparities between the original Goody Thokoman logo and the one purported have been the original. For example, the name on the logo of the peanut butter purported to be original (by Magdinvel Pty/Ltd) starts with capital ‘T’. On the other hand, the name on the original logo started with a small ‘t’. The original logo also bore the name Goody at the top. The name Goody did not appear at all on the allegedly ‘fake’ logo. The peanut butter supplied by Magdinvel Pty/Ltd, was reportedly of low quality (watery) according to insiders. The investigation by Mmegi paid off as the FCC recalled the fake peanut. The company replaced the peanut butter in June this year.
FCC accused of mistreating employees
Another most notable stories I covered was in November this year. The story was in relation to reports that the Francistown City Council forced some of its employees to patrol dangerous illegal waste dumping areas in the outskirts of the city. The initiative was introduced by the city council at the beginning of October, following growing instances of illegal waste dumping.
The aggrieved employees alleged that they were being forced to carry out patrols in bushy areas in the outskirts of the city which exposed them to danger.
To highlight the danger of patrolling illegal waste dumping hotspots sources intimated that two female employees were almost raped during their patrols. The said employees were also robbed of their belongings amongst them mobile phones.Then, sources alleged that workers were not even offered transport to areas where they are assigned to patrol. This was despite the fact they were being assigned to patrol areas outside the city such as at the water tanks along the Borolong/Francistown road that are not easily accessible.
In an official response, the council shot down concerns from the aggrieved employees. The FCC through spokesperson, Nametso Makula said at the initial stages of the initiative the intention was to deploy only male employees to the illegal waste dumping sites.
She, however, said female employees wanted to be included in the exercise and management conceded to their wishes. However the assertion by Makula was strongly refuted by several sources at the council. The council spokesperson confirmed the robbery incidents against employees patrolling areas where illegal dumping is prevalent but said no reluctance to discontinue the exercise was expressed following the two robber incidents. Makula did not mention anything about the alleged attempted rape cases.
However, following story by Mmegi, the council decided to exclude women from carrying out routine patrols in areas where illegal waste damping is widespread.
Tensions mount in the UDC
In June this year Mmegi broke a story in which there were allegations of escalating tension within the opposition coalition. The story articulated heightened tension in the UDC. At the time, source alleged that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) was deliberately left out of other key agenda items during a crucial UDC National Executive Committee meeting. BCP leaders who are part of the UDC executive did not attend the meeting physically but had opted to participate virtually owing to various commitments. Prior to the meeting, the BCP had openly said that there are governance challenges that had to be dealt within the coalition.
Subsequently, various sources confirmed that BCP leaders were given a link to join the UDC NEC meeting virtually very late, when the said meeting was about to come to a close. In addition, the sources intimated that this was an act of sabotage from BCP partners in the coalition, such as the Botswana People’s Party (BPP) and Botswana National Front (BNF). The story rekindled fears that the UDC project might be headed for collapse.
UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa, then vehemently denied reports that the UDC deliberately prevented the BCP from participating in key agenda items at the NEC meeting and only sent links (for the BCP leaders to join) when the gathering was about to come to a close. At the time, Mohwasa explained that there was no disharmony in the coalition. A week later, the UDC held a meeting in Palapye where leaders from the contracting parties conceded that there was tension in the coalition, therefore confirming Mmegi’s story that the movement had been hit by a wave of unrest. The coalition later resolved that an executive unity retreat be held to build the spirit of connectedness among parties.