A war of words has erupted between MP for Tati East Samson Guma and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) after the legislator alleged in Parliament on Thursday that the trade union – through its subsidiary Babereki Investments – was given P100 million from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF). Debating the budget proposal for the Auditor General, Guma said he is worried that the NPF has not been audited for the past two years and the fund is being abused with some unions that are benefiting. He wondered how NPF money found its way into the coffers of the trade union.
Asked by MP for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolathe to clarify his claim and the type of union he was talking about, Guma said: “I mean a trade union BOPEU through their company Babereki Investments. They were given P100 million from the NPF by the Fund Managers,” said Guma, to the shock of the Parliamentarians. That transaction, Guma said, amounts to serious looting of Government funds and Auditor General should be given more resources and empowered to investigate such cases. Furious over Guma's allegations – and responding on behalf of their subsidiary Babereki Investments – BOPEU Secretary General Topias Marenga came out with guns blazing, saying Guma was a bitter politician who is afraid of speaking the truth. According to Marenga, Babereki Investments were loaned P47 million by asset management firm Kgori Capital, formerly led by Bakang Seretse as its Managing Director. He said the deal was concluded long before allegations of the P250 million NPF money laundering scandal came to light, and therefore the funds they received as a loan could not have been part of it. “As asset managers Kgori Capital approached us with an offer for a loan which we accepted. Since they are asset managers there was no need for us to ask them if the money is from NPF or not. That was none of our business,” said Marenga.
After the money laundering scandal involving Seretse broke, Marenga said they were informed that RMB – a subsidiary of First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) – is now managing all the funds owed to Kgori Capital. “We are currently paying the money through RMB. We are now left with a balance of P36 million not the P100 million Guma is talking about,” said Marenga. The Secretary General of BOPEU said they are shocked but not surprised by Guma’s attack on them. He accused Guma of being a sore loser and behaving like spurned lover because of a failed attempt to partner with Babereki in his businesses. He said some time back Guma approached Babereki with business proposals to sell them some shareholding which the new leadership at BOPEU rejected after an assessment. “He once approached us to invest in his hotel business in Phase 4 (Gaborone) and a sunflower oil manufacturing plant in Francistown. After a due diligence process through which we assessed his proposals we declined the invitation when we found that the projects were not economically viable. Maybe that is why he is bitter,” said Marenga, advising the legislator to concentrate on the P250 million looting from NPF in which his principals President Ian Khama and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi have been implicated. Meanwhile, it has emerged that apart from Kgori, Babereki also sourced funds from another asset manager Capital Management Botswana (CMB) and some financial institutions with the intention to refinance their micro lending business. CMB is currently involved in numerous financial scandals over their investment, particularly against Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF). The funds sourced by Babereki were allegedly diverted and used for other acquisitions including the purchase of about 40 per cent shareholding at Flying Mission School and 30 per cent shareholding at some lodges in the Okavango Delta. Sources say BOPEU is concerned that Babereki cannot account for such investment as they do not hold a controlling stake in the entities they invested in, and have since been advised by the union to consider disinvesting. It is alleged that all six aircrafts acquired in the Flying Mission deal have been grounded, including about two acquired through CEDA funds.