By the end of this week Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Advocate, Sidney Pilane, will be swimming in at least P3 million legal fees bill after the Gaborone High Court dismissed his application to be brought back in Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) with costs.
BMD through Pilane, was questioning the manner in which they were ejected from the Umbrella project. At forefront BMD argued that the UDC decisively ignored the constitution and failed to follow the right structures when expelling them. It was also submitted that the body which purported to take the offending decisions has not been elected by UDC constitutional structures, therefore it is not constituted
In an interview this week with UDC leader, Duma Boko, who roped in legal brains from South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Senior Counsel (SC), Kennedy Paul and SC Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, revealed that the case will eat millions from Pilane. “The initial costs estimate of the case was P1.6 million but it is highly likely to go up because of additional costs.”
The initial costs were emanating from routinely consultations and interpretations of the case before reaching the High court on the 27th of last month. The court appearance of the four man team from South Africa, plus two local advocates with arguments by the two SC before the three man judge panel saw the bill reaching the estimated P1.6 million
“But it is very much likely to go up because there are additional costs which includes transports, lodging, meals, filling and all the stuff. So for now I cannot really commit as to how much it will costs because our lawyers are still sorting out the bill and it will be ready before the end of this week,” a buoyant Boko said in a telephone interview on Wednesday afternoon.
He continued; “Remember that case was handled by two SC’s and two juniors, furthermore we also had two advocates and all of them will compile their fees and we are waiting for that and that is when we will slap that other party (BMD), with the bill which will be very huge.” While Boko could not give this publication a real bill that will be put before Pilane’s desk since it is still drawn by the notaries, informants from the party claims to this publication on Thursday that indeed the legal fees from the attorneys will not be anything less than P3 million something which Boko did not rule out when asked.
The UDC leader who before this case has triumphed Pilane again in a case in which the former wanted him and the wife struck out of the voter’s roll, alleging they did not registrar at their principal residence says Pilane will still have to pay. “There were two cases if you remember, this one and the interlocutory case which they withdrew at the courts. Our lawyers are demanding payments for that because they came prepared for the case and they thoroughly consulted, hence they are demanding payments.”
It is not clear as to how much Boko’s man will charge for the aborted case; “but one thing which is for sure, is it will over be P100k,” one high ranking UDC leader disclosed to Weekendpost. Having lost the case at the High court as well as being dismissed when trying to lodge an appeal on urgency mode, the BMD will still appeal the matter and Boko foresees another embarrassment. “Before appealing any matter there is what is called Appeal security for costs, which is paid by the appellant and to us we will not demand anything less than a P1 million,” a very calm Boko divulged on Thursday evening.
Boko says after all these are done they will file with the court registrar to carry out a taxation process so that they can issue a writ of payment. “And we will then follow them to pay, if they don’t we will auction or close them down,” he remarked. Pilane on the other hand says the bill by the UDC is too much and they are still appealing the matter. “With legal fees it is still under appeal. But there was no need to bring four or six advocates, for me I would have expected P300k, not the amount they could be talking about, it was just one matter despite having Boko and UDC. Boko was roped in because he was the Chairman on the meetings so we needed record.”
This is what the BMD Secretary General Gilbert Mangole converged with his leader. “It will be too much but we know they would have done it purposely but we are appealing the matter. But if at all we lose, then obviously we will have to pay and the relevant authorities will look at our capacity if at all we can manage to pay the amount or what,” he said.
PILANE IN ANOTHER HALF A MILLION PULA LEGAL BILL
While still awaiting to be furnished with a bill from his opponents, Pilane is also expected to foot a whooping P457k legal fee from South African Senior Counsel Alexandra John Freund who represented him on the same matter. BMD Secretary General Gilbert Mangole confirmed to this publication that already they have paid P62k plus another P45k. “Before going to high court there were some back and forth consultation and interpretation hence we paid this amount,” Mangole clarified. He however said they are still waiting to clear off another P260k of Freund’s fees for court deliberations and time spent at the court.
The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.
Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.
When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.
This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.
Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.
In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.
Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.
The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.
The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.
It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.
The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.
However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.
Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.
“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”
Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.
Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.
“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.
At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.
Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.