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Christie Report haunts Venson-Moitoi presidential bid

Publishing Date : 11 February, 2019

Author : DAVE BAAITSE

This week contents of the 1992 report of the Presidential of inquiry into the operations of the Botswana Housing Corporation which was chaired by Richard Christie resurfaced in what is viewed as a political move to deter Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi from Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidential race next month.


The findings of the report, commonly known as Christie Report formed part of the 1990s corruption scandals which claimed scalps of many political figures and senior civil servants. Consequent to the report, which was not kind to Venson- Moitoi, who was then chairperson of the BHC Board as well as Permanent Secretary in the then Ministry of Local Government and Lands, she was fired from her position.


The report findings concluded that Venson-Moitoi colluded with Joseph Letsholo, then General Manager of BHC, to have house 5293 demolished and replaced, at a cost to the corporation of P151 00, to provide a justification for her moving to a BHC house which she preferred.
The other finding was that Venson-Moioti misled then Permanent Secretary to the President Elijah Legwaila into approving her application to change houses, by falsely representing that her predecessor as permanent secretary had not dealt with the matter and by concealing a file minute recommending the refusal of her application.


Venson-Motioi was also found to have been given financial advantage to which she was not entitled, by being permitted to occupy houses 5293 and house 5371 concurrently for six months without paying more than the normal instalments under her tenant purchase scheme agreement. The background of the matter indicate that earlier, on 12th December 1984 Venson- Moitoi was allocated type II house 5293 by the Gaborone Government pool housing allocation committee at the standard rental for a type II house of P 227 per month.


At the time she was employed in the Unified Local Government Service. She accepted the allocation and took occupation. On December 1987 she entered into an agreement with the Corporation to buy the house under the tenant purchase scheme. By then she was employed in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs.


In 19th April 1993, after the Christie report Venson- Moitoi through her lawyer Dick Bayford filed through the high court seeking that the review be set aside or correcting the findings of the Presidential Commission into the operations of the Botswana Housing Corporation to the extent that such findings and/ or conclusions as they relate to the applicant and form the basis of the applicant’s dismissal from the public service by His Excellency the President and declaring the decision of the President to dismiss the applicant from the Public Service in so far as such was based on the findings of the Commission be null and void of no force as well as directing the respondent to pay the costs hereof on such basis as the court may deem fit.


However in the application filed on the 7th May, 1993, the Attorney General sought that the setting aside of the Applicant’s main application as constituting an irregular or improper proceeding, suspending the Attorney General’s compliance with order 61 as called upon so to do in the aforesaid main application and directing the respondent to pay the costs hereof.


In his reply Dick Bayford cited that threport when published, and was later the subject of an application for judicial review involving unfairness and breaches of the rules of justice, as well as dispute over the Commission’s order for costs which was set aside. Nevertheless Byford further contended that it was patently obvious that the president had been exclusively moved by the findings of the Christie Commission in deciding to lay charges against the Venson- Moitoi but argued that the Commission’s findings were fatally flawed in only because the Commission had not first sought the applicant’s response to its proposed recommendations before such were finally presented in its report to the president.


In his ruling on the matter Barrington Jones, “And it is in the context of these continuing and striking developments of the law, and of judicial review, that I have carefully considered the detailed and persuasive address made by both Bayford and Advocate Burger (for the attorney General) but at the end of the day I am nevertheless persuaded that the applicant’s main application is an irregular proceeding in that the Christie Commission Report is not, I find, reviewable, nor does it contain reviewable findings, the Christie Commission, whose findings are sought to be reviewed by the applicant is, I am satisfied, functus officio and no longer exist; in view of the Attorney General’s averment that he has not been authorized to act for the Christie Commission in these proceedings, I find there is no alternative but to strike out the main application with costs.  


While commenting on the matter this week Venson- Moitoi said she is not aware who is responsible for resurfacing the matter which happened almost 25 years ago. She said the Christie report was long closed and as far as she is concerned, there is no case against her. “The high Court has ruled that the state set the administrative tribunal but they never did until I find a job in the neighbouring South Africa and left the country,” she said.


Venson-Moitoi said the house still belongs to her and the manner in which she acquired it was legit. The house in question which is adjacent to the Parliamentary Village is now Basilico, an Italian restaurant which is fully operational and hosts Gaborone’s elites. Venson- Moitoi who is running the last lap of her presidential race is very optimistic that campaigns are ongoing well. She told WeekendPost that she is aware of some agents of the DIS who are always tracking her every move. Moitoi said her life is not threated and she will not be deterred from contesting the BDP presidency come next month.

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