Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) nominated Councillors in the Sowa Township have vowed to hold their own following the announcement by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi that she will dissolve the Council after it failed to execute its duties without just cause.
Three of the eight nominated councillors have taken the Sowa Township Council to court over unpaid mileage claims following the council’s failure to provide them with accommodation in Sowa. Some of the councillors indicated in court papers that they drive from areas such as Serowe, Francistown, and Tonota to attend Council meetings in Sowa.
However Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi told Sowa residents this week that her decision was in accordance with the Local Government Act Section 89 (1) Clause C, which gave the minister powers to dissolve the council. The Act states that where the council fails without good cause to perform any of its functions, the minister shall exercise the powers conferred under the section.
The decision by the Minister is unprecedented and interesting at the same time because all the nominated councillors are from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Vice President Slumber Tsogwane was at the helm of the ministry at the time they were appointed.
Venson-Moitoi she took the decision following councillors’ refusal to do work, which they pledged to carry out after taking an oath of office – A charge that some of the suspended councilors who spoke to this publication vehemently deny. Botho Ntirang, a nominated councilor in Sowa told Weekend Post, “the night is still young on this matter”. He said he suspects that the minister is acting on hearsay and does not have the benefit of records. Ntirang is one of the three councillors ventilating his grievances in court.
According to Dr Venson-Moitoi some of the councillors after refusing to do work which they were mandated to do, and further they took council to court regarding their grievances on allowances. Dr Venson-Moitoi stated that while the said councillors had found themselves a representative on their case against the council, they have refused to pass a resolution that would give the Sowa council management power of attorney so that it could also have a representative on the case and any other issues on which the council might need to have a legal representative.
Asked on the matter, Ntirang said, “We will not do anything that contravenes the Local Government Act. We took an oath of office and we were basically pointing out to the Town Clerk that we cannot pass a resolution on a matter that we feel conflicted.” According to Ntirang no councillor has ever refused to give the council power of attorney, “what happened was that when the town clerk brought the issue before council, those who names were at court recused themselves because they were conflicted and the quorum collapsed.” He said they did so because they took an oath which they would have contravened had they chosen to stay and deliberate on a matter in which they are conflicted.
â€¨While the minister has noted that numerous efforts have been made by the town clerk to engage with the councillors to reach a resolution on the matter to the extent that even on mediation with an authorised personnel, she sent, the councilors still failed to adhere to the laws that governed them as representatives of the people, Ntirang disputes that “in fact the council has been very dishonest and they even misled court by filing a false power of attorney.” According to Ntirang the people who should be facing the Minister’s wrath at the moment is the Sowa Town Council management, “not the councillors”.
â€¨Dr Venson-Moitoi has indicated that when the nominated councillors were sworn into office, they took an oath of allegiance that they would be faithful, protect the constitution of Botswana and work fully for the people they were representing. She is of the view that the councillors had refused to do what they had taken oath for hence acting according to the constitution.
â€¨Explaining the process of dissolving the council, Dr Venson Moitoi said she would publicise the decision on the government gazette and in the meantime find people who would ensure the council business continues. â€¨The Minister said she would give Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) three months to have given new names for people who would continue work at the council.â€¨Earlier this year, the councillors passed a motion that had requested council to pay them mileages every time they attend council meetings and other engagements for the council since they could not be provided with accommodation in Sowa.
The Councillors were appointed after the 2014 general elections and they include former cabinet Minister Olifant Mfa. Government has made it clear that it has no money to pay mileage claims to councillors and that it could be costly exercise. However there are nominated councillors who claim mileages in areas where the distance is within certain limits. Indications are that should nominated councillors claim mileage the bill could spring to billions of Pula.
The three councillors are represented in court by David Olatotse of Olatotse attorneys and should they succeed in their suit, they could pocket hundreds of thousands of Pula. “We are still councillors of Sowa Township until the process initiated by the minister is completed. We hope she does everything in a manner that agrees with the Act that empowers her to do that. We cannot stop the minister from dissolving the council,” declared Ntirang.
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.