Botswana: Is It the End for Guma?

MP for Tati East Samson Moyo Guma left the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) on his own in 2010. He returned on his own two years later. He left the party again on Friday - April 26, 2019 - this time being pushed out. It is possible he could return later but this would be under a different regime and circumstances.

At this point, the party leadership doesn't want him anywhere close to the party.

He had faced charges of organising and holding an authorised party meeting in Serowe two months ago where he publicly attacked the leadership style of President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

He skipped the country one and half months ago, alleging that he had received information that his life was in danger. He is not said to have moved most of his movable assets to South Africa where he has been based.

"Chances of him coming back are very slim. Just recently his son came for his Range Rover sedan which was still at the garage when he left for South Africa," confided one of his close associates.

The rubble rouser politician - who has been feted as a maverick politician, a jester many times and a crowd puller par excellence - started to show signs of frustration when he was not appointed a Cabinet minister by President Masisi, after he had campaigned hard for him to rise in the party ranks.

When Masisi became the VP after the 2014 elections and intended to contest as party chairman, Guma stood up and offered to lead his campaign. It was one of the most lavish campaigns the country had seen where because of the cash that was freely given they created a camping site at Mmadinare Congress called 'camp Dubai'.

In 2017 he again led the campaign. Sources close to him have revealed that he was positioning himself to take over as party chairperson once Masisi ascended the presidency. When Masisi failed to appoint him as party Chairperson or even into his Cabinet, the betrayal he felt was the most extreme, those close to him have revealed.

They would be in opposite camps from that moment. It is for this reason, sources say, that he would seek a candidate to challenge Masisi together with all those who shared his hatred of the man. He found Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and former President Ian Khama ready and willing.

He set his sights on the Secretary General position against his then political ally, Mpho Balopi. This shocked many as the two used to be good friends and business partners.

The Tsamaya-born politician who rose from the clutches of poverty to become one of the most influential politicians joined forces with his longtime political nemesis Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi in their effort to wrestle the party from Masisi.

When Masisi faced revolt from within the party as he wanted to contest the party chairmanship, it was Moyo Guma who first declared his support for him and campaigned for him by committing his own personal resources.

A shrewd, fearless and fast-talking operative now finds himself isolated in a foreign country with the final blow landed through his expulsion from the ruling party.

While still fighting the political battles, he was faced with other challenges of fending off accusations of tax evasion regarding his businesses, in particular the Oil Refinery Company.

The Director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) Peter Magosi said Guma fled the country because he knows that he owes tax and has to answer for the P10 million invested in his company by various financial institutions.

DISS, and the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have been investigating Guma's United Refineries Botswana (URB) and recently raided him over tax evasion claims. The company that was being sued for failing to pay loans to financial institutions ultimately applied and was granted voluntary judicial management by the High Court.

The company owes Botswana Development Company (BDC) P15 million, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) P24 million while Unibulk Botswana wants P92 million for breach of contract. The Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) has also invested millions of Pula in the company.

Guma is also part of a citizen consortium that is setting up a sugar extraction plant in Francistown, in which government has a 40 percent stake through the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA). The Francistown project also involves construction of a golf estate.

Magosi said that his officers have investigated all these projects which some government financial institutions have pumped millions into.

"He knows very well that he has to answer regarding the millions of money which has been invested into his projects; yet none of them are working," he said. Guma has also allegedly been granted 5,000 hectares of land in Pandamatenga for sunflower and sugar plantation projects which are currently not functioning.

The flamboyant businessman and politician saw his troubles increasing tenfold when the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) wanted to have tête-à-tête with him regarding his tax issues.

"He was supposed to meet with the BURS officials regarding his tax issues but failed to appear. That's when he started claiming that his life was in danger," said Magosi. Three years ago Guma found himself again in trouble with the taxman as his accounts were frozen.

In May 2015 Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), acting on behalf of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), filed a miscellaneous application for the bank accounts of Moyo Guma's company, IRB Transport and those of his business associate Thapelo Olopeng, to be frozen.

He served as Assistant Minister of Finance for eight months in 2008 before stepping down in a cloud of controversy amid allegations that he was about to be charged for corruption.

When BDP finally gave birth to its first political offspring Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), he became its first treasurer. In 2012 the militant Tati East MP returned to the BDP and in 2013 he contested the party chairpersonship against Venson-Moitoi.

He won the elections but his stint as chairman was short-lived as he resigned a few months later. While he claimed that he resigned from the position to clear his name, reports later emerged that Guma left because he had failed to get protection from the Office of the President against a media smear campaign and intrusive investigations by the DISS.

Guma was also implicated in the BDP's messy primary elections ahead of the 2014 general elections - a charge he vehemently denied.

With his rustic looks, ready wit and earthy attitude to events and people, if he doesn't come back home he might find himself removed as MP with by-elections called before the general elections. But the survivor in him, point to a man who will once more rise like a phoenix.

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