How 'Masisi' was fingered in bloody BMD Congress

Sidney Pilane, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Sadique Kebonang
Sidney Pilane, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Sadique Kebonang

Following a leaked document detailing how legislator Sadique Kebonang distributed P750, 000 from troubled asset manager Capital Management Botswana (CMB) meant for the then vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi’s campaign, it has emerged that not all the money was used for the intended purpose.

Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Sidney Pilane has told The Monitor that Kebonang, who is his friend, donated to him P50,000 for his party’s congress that was held in Bobonong in 2017.

The revelation by Briscoe Attorneys that Pilane received P50,000 has sparked speculation that the ruling party was involved in the split of BMD that resulted in the formation of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), which weakened the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

“Pilane claims not to know anything about Masisi’s involvement in the funds that he got. That is not true, he knew that the ruling party supported his faction in a bid to destroy the BMD and weaken the UDC in the process. The Pilane faction was favoured over Ndaba Gaolathe’s faction,” a source said. Then BMD gave birth to AP after the Bobonong congress, as the Pilane-led faction would not allow the Ndaba Gaolathe faction into the congress.

Pilane was, however, quick to deny knowledge that the money was from a Trust Fund meant for Masisi’s campaign.  Pilane said it had come to his attention that there is in circulation a copy of a cheque for P50,000 given to him in July 2017.

He said, historically all political parties, including the AP, Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), BMD, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and others, raise funds from any source of lawful money, which is willing to give, for all their political activities, including and particularly congresses and conferences.

“In 2017, the BMD raised funds in order to fund its July Congress in Bobonong. The funding was required to pay for the venue, to transport those delegates who cannot transport themselves (which is mostly Batswana ba ba itshokollang), and to feed them. I personally had, over the years, been requested by members of the BCP, BDP and BNF for contributions towards their political activities, and I have never hesitated to give them the little I could.

I believe that we all have a civic responsibility to support all the political activities of all the parties in order to strengthen our democracy. That is why I have always made an effort to assist where I could irrespective of the political party involved,” he said.

“Secondly, Sadique Kebonang and I have, for very many years now, had a close relationship. We have always assisted each other financially, including for political purposes even as we are in different and opposed political parties.  In July 2017, I told him we were raising funds for the BMD Congress to be held in Bobonong, and informed him that we were far short of our needs.

I asked him for such contribution as he could afford. He said he would look at his finances, and would come back to me. Several hours later, he called back and said I should go see Attorney Daphne Briscoe, who would give me a cheque.

The following day I went and saw Attorney Briscoe, who said that Advocate Kebonang had asked her to give me a cheque for P50,000. She gave me the cheque, and asked me to sign the A4 sheet of paper on which appeared a copy of the cheque as a receipt as the funds were coming from her firm’s trust account. I signed the sheet of paper,” he continued.

Pilane said Masisi’s name did not appear on the document he signed. “This I know, not because I would not accept a financial contribution to our political activities from either President Masisi or any other lawful source, as we badly need money to finance our political activities, but because I would have asked what President Masisi had to do with it as I had not asked His Excellency for a contribution nor had he offered any or been mentioned to me.

I had asked Advocate Kebonang for the money and Attorney Briscoe had said to me that the request to give me the cheque had come from Advocate Kebonang. So I would have, if for no other reason,  out of curiosity, asked why the President’s name appeared on the A4 sheet with the copy of the cheque if his name had appeared on it.

I imagine that President Masisi’s name must have been written on the document after, certainly not before, I signed it. I do not know who has written President Masisi’s name on the document, and why they have. I will ask the President whether he knows anything concerning the matter,” he said.

Pilane further said there was nothing odd nor sinister about anybody having contributed P50,000 towards the 2017 BMD Congress of July 2017. He said many others contributed various amounts at their request during their fundraising efforts, which is what made that Congress a success.

“Cynics may say and do their damnest!  I am satisfied that there is nothing sinister or wrong with me requesting and accepting the money. At that time, the Petroleum Fund controversy had not broken, and we certainly knew nothing of it at the time we asked for and received the money.

The BMD is a political party independent of all others and it, from inception to date, has and continues to pursue its own political agenda with the sole purpose of advancing the best interests of this country and all its people,” he said.

Pilane said the BMD has never and will never serve the interests of any other political party, nor has it ever nor will it ever do so. He concluded by stating that cynics and the wicked are at liberty to think what they wish. “After all, ours is a free country in which those who have nothing better to do for our country than purvey wicked cynicism are not prevented from doing so,” he said. Kebonang would not be dragged into discussing the matter stating that he had not received the documents from the liquidator.

CMB, an asset management firm, is currently embroiled in a legal battle over a disputed sum in excess of P550 million of public pension fund assets.

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