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.
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.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.