Kali Jones is a first. She is the first African-American woman to serve as the Deputy Chief of Mission here at the US Embassy in Botswana. Notably, she now joins a distinguished group of women; women who serve as ‘Deputies’ in Foreign missions based in the country including at the Embassies of the United Kingdom, South Africa, Germany, Zimbabwe, European Union, Kenya and France.
The US diplomat arrived in Gaborone in 2017 and has been working dual roles for the past seven months until the recent arrival of her colleague, Craig Cloud, who is the new Ambassador of the US to Botswana. Before she arrived to serve in Botswana she was slightly nervous, and feeling a certain pressure only to find that her team is supportive and wants her to lead and succeed making her transition all the way easier. Her leadership style involves empathy and respect, and not backing away from making the tough decisions. “As a leader you have to be very aware that people are people. That they have outside pressures, issues of family finances, and personal goals of their own. You need to understand what brings people to your team,” she shares.
At the top of her management list is being able to make the difficult decisions. “There are over 200 people working for the Embassy, not everyone will agree. Being comfortable in a seat of disagreement is hard but necessary,” she adds. Jones, is on a three-year standard term and is aware that as a woman the expectation to perform is levelled a notch up, and doubly so because she is also a black woman. It is only during “weird circumstances” like when she is the only woman in a room full of men that it hits her.
“Being the only black woman leads to a lot of responsibilities. I have this talk with my sisters too,” explains Jones. This is partly why it is a conscious decision for her to provide mentorship and create time to do it; even though it gets difficult the higher she goes up the ladder “with many things pulling at her time.”
To this degree she is also part of a close-knit, low-key ‘Badass Women’s Brunch’ group, comprising of six other women dedicated to supporting each other professionally, women whose career trajectories she has learnt from. Jones uses an example in the US to indicate how concerted efforts are needed to instigate change and increase the participation and inclusion of women in the economy. Back in 1972 the Foreign Service she now works for got rid of a rule which prescribed that women had to exit work if and when they got married, a rule which had a major negative impact on whether women stayed in the diplomatic corps or if they rose up the Foreign Service ranks.
This prohibition would have applied to Jones who met her partner and now husband, Nicholas in 1999 and got married last year. Thanks to the eradication of such laws, and making entry or base exams gender neutral the department, years later is now gender balanced with 50 percent female and male employees. A similarity she has observed between the women’s movement here and in the US is the unjust sexual assault women face. Jones has since had numerous conversations with Batswana women in politics, and women at the helm of businesses and what concerns her is the aspect of “social change and gender balance” an observation she extends and clarifies as the need for women to have the “power to step forward.” As for Gender Based Violence (GBV) Jones shares that it is important that the shame and stigma attached to GBV is removed so that survivors can be free from the “quietness of being a victim” as has been the case in the US where the cause now has many outspoken faces representing it.
She also senses a “culture of quitting, which I don’t like” when it comes to GBV locally; sure enough it is important to have partners such as UNICEF and UNDP fighting GBV but she does find it imperative that more businesses, institutions and schools have sexual harassment policies and overall legal frameworks that will also help protect and support people. She was therefore pleased to hear the first family, the President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, together with his partner and First Lady, Neo Masisi championing the chorus against GBV and the abuse of children, “I have met awesome leaders here who are moving Botswana forward,” she adds.
Although there are different disciplines in the Foreign Service her focus today is on the “economic track” and “all things that deal with economics”. These range from conservation of wildlife to the more hardcore macroeconomic issues such as how to build economic trade. According to Jones critical steps forward include the focus on “shared prosperities” between Botswana and the US, such as the interest by both President Trump and President Masisi in developing the trade and investment sectors. She observes Masisi as invested in bringing in Foreign Direct Investment and curbing youth unemployment. “Even HIV and AIDS is an investment in human capital.” One of the focal areas for the US Embassy, as well as the WHO, who provide normative guidance - is supporting Botswana with HIV prevention, treatment and care strategies.
This is largely facilitated through PEPFAR Botswana which has partnered with the government for the past 15 years and is now working to get programmes and policies to help reach HIV epidemic control. “What is important is the effective use of the funding,” she says as she reminds that Botswana in this partnership actually commits 60 percent of funding to HIV. In respect to local politics and that Botswana together with other African countries will be hosting elections this year Jones observes that Botswana is a democratic country. “What is great is that people are involved and talking. People are engaged. And that is what you want to see. Democracy survives when people are engaged, that is critical.” Jones says Botswana still has a good story to tell, and that “people in the West still perceive it as a diamond of Africa, the place that is unlike the others” hence US tourists are the number one consumers outside of Africa of tourism in the country.
She observes that Botswana indeed has all the right indicators - it is well governed, transparent, and has diamond reserves. With no hesitancy the US diplomat explains that the resolution to the current furore and debate on Batswana and her elephants lies with Botswana citizens. “The elephant story is best left to Botswana citizens,” who she expects to comply with all international standards and requirements as to the solutions they will take. Jones was born in Louisiana, in the south part of the USA, a country with a history of slavery. As such race is a factor for her but not one she bares unnecessarily particularly because she is aware that, “The way people view race is so dramatically different in every country” and has also observed that even when people tell her that race is not an issue “There is always a component of race. I have seen race everywhere,” she says.
Two years ago there were huge protests in the South of the US with states like Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida; demonstrations for and against the “taking down” of Confederate statues or such similar monuments which were created and mounted in several US states during heightened periods of the implementation of the Jim Crow laws, laws with a sole and symbolic purpose of segregating the black population from the white citizens of the country. Such policies bore similar intent and spirit to that of Apartheid in South Africa. These debates on the removal or not of the Confederate statues easily rebirth and bring into vividness the countries’ slave history. “I grew up with race. It’s a very emotional issue. It helps me understand that everyone has a motive. But I don’t take it (race) with me,” explains the diplomat.
Jones chokes up when speaking of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, a globally acclaimed US political figure who has been her epitome of a black woman holding her power, and respecting her authority and responsibility. Rice was also a first, the first female African-American US Secretary of State. Jones recalls wondrous moments of privilege when working “close enough” to Rice while she was the Secretary of State. Jones was “very junior” to Rice and serving as one of 35 ‘Watch Officers’ in a Unit called the Operations Center.
She remembers being close enough to be “corrected and guided to the right decisions” by Rice, and close enough to appreciate the “discipline” Rice had. “From my seat I could see her (Rice) schedule. And she was always on time,” she says. “She was decisive. She listened to all opinions. She asked for opinions from all around the building, and was open to dissenting opinions. She was wicked smart too. The way she was able to process information,” adds Jones, “When you have a leader who makes decisions you can get on with the business,” says Jones of Rice.
Beyond female leadership Jones’s favourite US Presidents include Abraham Lincoln who despite being “well before my time” had leadership principles that she subscribes to. She has read his book Lincoln on Leadership and notes that he talks of simple steps like “going outside or taking a walk” but when Jones strides the office halls here people are quick to ask “If there is anything wrong and where she is going?” she says with a giggle. John F. Kennedy is another former US President she admires for his idealist character, which looked beyond the US and stirred him to create the Peace Corps. And of course Barack Obama, from an African-American vantage point Obama was a “wow” moment of intense pride which had even more impact on her older family members, the ones who were in the civil rights movement.
“I know how hard it is to get there,” she says of Obama’s presidential win. She has “absolute respect” for the first African-American President of the US for then hiring his opponent Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State during his tenure.
Contrary to Verma’s assertions, evidence adduced in court leading to the company being placed under judicial management and final liquidation of Pula Steel indicates that the Verma family was the greatest beneficiary of the deal.
Court records submitted during the application for judicial management shows that CEDA was approached by Pula Steel partners comprising of Wealth Generation owned by Brian Mosenene and Mpho Balopi ; and the Verma Family represented by Verma senior and the spouse. CEDA then injected funds as they believed that it was a good business proposition and especially being in Selibe Phikwe, but before any production could start, BCL developed interest in being part of the project.
CEDA was not aware at all material times that one of the Verma’s was in partnership with the spouse of the BCL General Manager at that time in an unrelated business nor was it privy to the discussions that led BCL to develop interest in Pula Steel. BCL paid for their consideration in Pula Steel and as per the Shareholders Agreement they were given a controlling stake whilst Phase 1 implementation was underway. Pula Steel under the management of Verma senior as CEO proceeded to procure equipment for Phase 2 with funds that were supposed to complete Phase 1 of the project. This led to a shortfall in funds to complete Phase 1 hence the capital call that resulted.
CEDA questioned the wisdom of allowing such a cardinal transgression in planning and subsequently CEDA declined to take part in the Capital Call and ended up being diluted. CEDA at the time stated to Pula Steel that its decision not to participate was based on the unjustified change in scope without CEDA’s consent and without a proper business case. Whilst BCL did deposit their portion of the capital call, the Vermas indicated that they had paid a creditor a certain amount and therefore wanted it to be treated as their contribution, whilst the event took place prior to the capital call but could not produce paper trail to that effect. Disagreements ensued that fuelled the mistrust within the shareholders because it was an expectation that such funds be deposited in an account and be recorded as such.
Besides non-compliance with the agreed capital call governance, funds were being raised for a different purpose than paying the referred creditors of which the resultant effect was that there will be a shortfall on the targeted capital being raised. This was hotly debated and contested, and other shareholders were adamant that the Vermas had not paid as agreed. However, over time as this was being debated, BCL being the majority shareholder decided to recognise the Vermas’ contribution and capital call process was closed and funds released for the company’s use.
Money then finished off very quickly as it came and still the business was not operating optimally. Pula Steel then made another capital call. This time around BCL made it clear that they will not participate because they were in liquidation. Besides BCL, other shareholders proceeded to consider the capital call. Following its internal processes, CEDA reverted and indicated that its exceptional participation woud be based on certain conditions being met which were stipulated in a term sheet.
The conditions that CEDA put in were that a Management Services firm be engaged to ensure that policies and procedures are embedded in the organisation for good corporate governance. CEDA needed to know as to what transpired from a company that required an initial P40m to a company that had already gobbled up more than P120m within a short space of time.
Since CEDA insisted on the Management Services Firm, Grant Thornton was engaged to undertake the assignment. Their results are contained in the report presented to the High Court. It showed that Pula Steel did not adhere to the basic principles of financial management, had poor record keeping, unpaid PAYE obligations to BURS, proper good governance, an improper pricing strategy, over reliance on a narrow customer base in South Africa and exacerbated by questionable related party dealings that were undeclared.
Hence CEDA insisted on the Vermas stepping down from the management team based on the results of the audit that showed that they were not running the company properly, poor financial management discipline, governance lapses, related party transactions and obligations that had no clear contracts. Creditors were not being paid yet money had been contributed by shareholders to among others deal with such matters. There was also employees dissatisfaction and in some cases those who questioned the Vermas were dismissed, an example being Jacob Motlhale who was the finance manager.
Records seen by Botswana Guardian indicate that CEDA made it clear that its funding must give the Agency control of up to 49 percent so as to put things in order. CEDA required that it has control over three key positions being the CEO, Finance Manager and Production /Technical Manager. Another condition was that CEDA become a signatory in Pula Steel bank account, contributions from shareholders should be deposited in an escrow account at Armstrong Attorneys.
This was to prevent an earlier scenario where the Vermas had decided to not deposit their contribution in a company account and instead insisted that they paid creditors. Other conditions were that CEDA takes security of Pula Steel plant and land against the funding; that all Pula Steel Directors including the Vermas resign from their positions and new Directors be appointed. This would have given the Vermas only one position.
Further the term sheet was made in March 2017. There was a set date for contributions to have been made but the Vermas and Wealth Generation did not meet the deadline. Only CEDA met the deadline of the capital call and had placed its contribution with the attorneys, and the deadline was extended for other shareholders. Subsequently numerous meetings ensued where the Vermas suddenly objected CEDA conditions and made it clear that they do not want to resign from the company and that they wanted more shares. It was discussed that if they wanted more shares, then they must put in more funds, something that they could not do.
Seeing that there was no progress, CEDA applied for judicial management which was agreed to by all the shareholders including the Vermas. From March to August, nothing could move as the Vermas allegedly changed goalposts time and again citing that CEDA conditions are not fair to them. During this period, the Judicial Manager was in charge of the company but could not do much to resuscitate the business without funding. CEDA did not move an inch on its conditions, citing that Pula Steel is in distress because of the bad management by the Vermas and therefore it cannot ignore such a factor in releasing its funding. CEDA made it clear at court that its contribution of about P28m is available provided Pula Steel meets its conditions, which were objected to by the Vermas as they wanted control of the company.
The creditors including Pula Steel staff and other shareholders supported the new CEDA deal except for the Vermas. CEDA chief executive Thabo Thamane strongly stood his ground before the Master of High Court during one of the creditors’ meeting held on June 26th 2017. Thamane stated that CEDA could inject capital only if its terms were complied with to avoid money going down the drain. Indications are that had CEDA put in the P28m without clear conditions, the exposure in Pula Steel by the government owned entity would be substantial.
Air Botswana’s latest acquisition - Embraer 170 jet - remains grounded because it is yet to be certified by Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB). Meanwhile some of the national airline’s executives in particular the Director of Flight Operations, Captain Clement Nsimbi, are takig the rap for the mess, but through the office of the PR manager, Thabiso Leshoai, Nsimbi is vehemently denying any blame worthiness.
The aircraft , which was bought in Canada was delivered without verification certificate that allows it to be flown commercially in foreign lands more than two months ago. Contrary to ICAO regulations relevant authorities, particularly the project manager and or flight operations director did not prepare training of crew staff and CAAB inspectors in advance. Botswana Guardian learns that CAAB inspector did in fact accompany Air Botswana staff and was trained on ground school, which he passed. However, Director Flight Operations refused to pay for his simulator training allegedly because it was expensive and they would not be able to bond him.
It’s now said that CAAB has secured funds and a training slot for him is in April 2019. It’s said for type-related airworthiness training one of the airworthiness inspectors has done in-house training with Air Botswana pilots. He is currently undergoing on the job training which is to be validated by SACCA on 17 March 2019.
Nsimbi denied the accusations as factually incorrect. Instead he said the CAAB Inspector had been scheduled for oversight purposes and that Air Botswana assumed the costs for training. However, the requirement for the CAAB Inspector to be type rated on the aircraft came late in the process, and was not able to be accommodated at that stage. “The issue of bonding has never been grounds for denying the Inspector simulator training”. AB’s cancellation of flights due to crew shortage is another issue of concern. Director of Flight operations has allegedly said that CAAB never allows them to use relief or temporary crew.
However, experts say this cannot be the case as the Operations Manual provides operational procedures for such issues. Nsimbi concured that there have been cancellations and that these have a direct link with the delay of the deployment of the jet because the sectors planned to be covered by the jet had to now be covered by ATR aircraft. Unfortunately this increased the crew working hours and led to maximum utilisation of allowed crew duty times, which in turn led to crew constraints in some instances. “The expedited integration of the Jet to our fleet is the primary solution however; we are also looking to source additional crew on temporary basis,” he said.
Nsimbi was noncommital as to when the jet will hit the sky, saying it will be commercially available as soon as it is registered on “our Air Operator Certificate, which process is currently with CAAB”. He confirmed that the Jet is technically in working condition and serviceable. For an aircraft to be commercially available in Botswana, Air Botswana needs to satisfy Part V (2) of the Civil Aviation (Air Operator Certification and Administration) Regulations 2013.
It provides that, a person shall not operate any specific type of aircraft in commercial air transport until it has completed satisfactory initial certification, which includes the issuance of an Air Operator Certificate listing for that type of aircraft. As part of this process, several mandatory steps need to be followed, including; de-registration of the aircraft from its former regulatory jurisdiction and registration in Botswana in order for CAAB to start to enforce its regulations. It is only when these processes have been completed and the aircraft has been included in Air Botswana’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC) that it can now be commercially available.
International operations however require what is known as Foreign Operators Permit (FOP) which can only be applied for and secured after the CAAB certification processes are completed. Most importantly, these approvals are dependent on each other and necessarily sequential. As a result, they tend to be lengthy. Unlike the ATR equipment that was registered before arrival in Botswana the Jet -being a first for CAAB - was not possible to follow the same procedure.
Nsimbi said the option of relief crews is also being considered subject to CAAB regulations as well as “our own Operations Manual; there is no reluctance in this area”. As for allegations that the project is mismanaged and failed to comply with CAAB regulations, Nsimbi said Air Botswana always complies with all regulations and has never, under any circumstances circumvented any regulations as laid out by regulatory and governing bodies. Nsimbi said in light of current experiences, management has embarked on a process to review “our manuals and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to international best practice in line with any regulatory requirements”.
Members of Parliament across the aisle have expressed concern at the possible bad image that the country could attract due to the strained relationship between President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor. Since last year Dr. Masisi and former president Dr. Ian Khama have been entangled in a polarised relationship that has divided the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Debating the budget for Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation this week, MPs expressed concern that the situation has escalated and would possibly affect the country’s image in the international arena. MP for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi said while they appreciate that the current president is visiting other countries and participating in international meetings it is worrisome that the relationship between Dr. Masisi and Khama is strained. The legislator stated that Dr. Khama’s failure to attend regional and international forums was negatively affecting the country. He however expressed worry that even though Dr. Masisi is doing a good job sometimes his statements are likely to annoy some countries especially those that Botswana relies on.
“He might be trying to mend relations but some of his public utterances are a cause for concern. The president must be careful what he says and to whom he says it to. “The recent issue about wildlife, I think the president should not have said the words he said. We do not want to find ourselves fighting with other countries especially western countries. “He might have said the words with good intentions but we always have to be careful and choose correct and diplomatic words. The way he approached the issue it is like we do not care as a country,” said Mmolotsi adding that western countries have got nothing to lose but Botswana as a small economy has a lot to lose.
He told Parliament that the fighting within the BDP is not good for the country. The former president would say something and then Dr. Masisi would say another, pointed out Mmolotsi. He called on the International Affairs and Cooperation Minister Dr. Unity Dow to engage the duo to safeguard the country’s image. MP for Gaborone Central Dr. Phenyo Butale said the disagreement between the former and current presidents should not be allowed to harm the country. He stated that the interest of the country has to be protected.
He challenged the consistency of the country’s foreign policy. He said the government used to “say something about the Dalai Lama but today we are saying a different story. “There is need for us to be consistent. We cannot have a situation where two leaders are competing and saying bad things in the public space which have the potential of denting our image.” According to Dr. Butale the country has always been cautious of what it says or does because of the delicacy of its economy. “We do not want our country to be taken to the dogs by our two leaders because we do not know what exactly happened between them,” said Dr. Butale.
The MP said while Dr. Masisi is representing the country well at international level, it is important to apply a robust approach about multilateral relations. He said there is need for an aggressive approach in pursuing the interests of the country. MP for Francistown East Honest Buti Billy said it is costing the country to see the situation between Dr. Masisi and his predecessor. “As an individual, one might think the matter does not concern them but it does. “People out there see it differently. We are known to be a peace-loving nation but what is currently happening is telling a different story and the world is watching,” Billy told Parliament.
He said the duo has to be serious and sort out their differences. He wondered what people will tell their grandchildren about the current situation if it is not attended to. “I know people do not want us to talk about this issue, but we have to talk about it because we cannot ignore it anymore,” he said.
Minister Dr. Dow said at ministry level regarding the relationship between the two leaders is to ask the question ‘what you do is it for the country or is personal?’ She told Parliament that as the ministry they will only celebrate and appreciate those who do good for the country and not for personal gain. She said they however do not control what people speak at their individual level.
Botswana Geoscience Institute’s Chief Executive, Tiyapo Ngwisanyi said there is a need for continuous research on the mineral sector in the country as the mines are getting deeper and grades are getting low.
Briefing journalists last week, Ngwisanyi said the institution has developed a strategic plan 2018 to 2023 which prioritizes on undertaking high quality geoscience research for mineral exploration, promotion of sustainable development and geo-hazards. “There is a continuous change in the mining sector and geological field. We see mines getting deeper, grades getting lower and there is a growing requirement for social responsibility. All these require BGI to facilitate a vibrant mining industry through research, innovation and development,” said Ngwisanyi.
He also highlighted the institution is working on advising the government and attracting investors in the mineral sector. Meanwhile Botswana is exploring ways to produce and market clean diamonds through the use of digital sales platform that uses propriety analytics with cloud and block chain technologies. The project is currently undertaken by the Canadian Diamond Producer, Lucara Diamonds. Through the system jewellery manufacturers would be able to sell diamonds directly via a digital platform backed by secure blockchain technology, which would cut out the middlemen in the industry.
Recently the minister of mineral resources, Green Technology and Energy Resources, Eric Molale said they will look into upgrading the Botswana Geoscience Institution laboratories to have them accredited and equipped to carry out all analysis required by the industry. Lucara Diamonds is conducting a pilot project for the diamond tracing technology called Diamond solutions. These and other emerging technologies will enhance Botswana in her efforts to produce and market clean diamonds,” said Molale.
Getbucks Botswana has announced intentions to expand and continue to grow footprint across the country. The group’s condensed unaudited financial statements for the six months ended 31 December released this week indicates that GetBucks and its subsidiary is committed to optimise its resources and deliver optimum value to customers and stakeholders.
“The group will continue to focus on customer service excellence by bridging the gap in the market through financial technology,” said Martin De Kork, Getbucks Botswana Managing Director. GetBucks is a fintech group that embraces technology as a means to provide financial products and services to customers.
De Kork said the Group‘s forecasts and projections, taking account of reasonably possible changes in trading performance, remain positive.“The directors have a reasonable expectation that the group and company have adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future.” He said the directors have satisfied themselves that the group is in a sound financial position and that it has access to enough borrowing facilities to meet its foreseeable cash requirements. “The directors are not aware of any new material changes that may adversely impact the group,” De Kork said.
He said the last six-months of last year were a turning point in the development and re-positioning of the group.“ We maintained constant revenue over the past period, which prompted the group to embark in robust marketing campaigns, deploying of additional competent staff and motivating staff more with a view to improve the quality business operations and administration thereof in the future.”
As a result Getbucks’ loan book grew by six percent from June 2018, while the group assets increased by three percent at the end of the period from BWP 219 million in June 2018 to BWP 224 million in December 2018. Meanwhile the group has committed to making a lasting impact in the community through its social responsibility projects.