Minister of Defence Justice and Security (MDJS), Shaw Kgathi is irked by piling cases at the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP). The minister is also troubled by the Attorney General Chambers (AGC) sloppiness in case management.
A number of cases including high profile cases have been with the DPP for some time now but updates have yet to be shared regarding them. The DPP has generally been accused of sitting on high profile cases involving politicians and public officers. Recently, the Attorney General, Abraham Keetshabe was criticized by various quarters including Law Society of Botswana (LSB) over claims that he told the president that ministers are “free from prosecution” as long as he is the AG. The AG chambers however later issued a rebuttal.
At a security council late last month, minister Kgathi revealed that there were close to 15 000 cases found during an auditing process, of which some have not been formally closed yet. “The data analysis established that out of 14 817 cases found during auditing, some of the cases were not formally closed though they had been completed at court and thus substantially increasing the numbers classified as backlog.”
The minister revealed that he has as a result asked the Registrar and Master of the High Court to device ways and means of fast tracking all cases identified as ‘backlog’ that are already registered with various courts. Despite the minister’s remarks, the DPP is of the view that the backlog has significantly been reduced. According to the DPP and AG Chambers files, “Criminal cases reduced from 10 309 to 10 271. These are made up of 5,327 cases which are before the courts and 4, 944 which are still being assessed. Civil cases also reduced from 7000 to 3 36.”
The minister, as part of remedial action was also forced to transfer prosecutorial functions from Botswana Police Service (BPS) to DPP for better management, WeekendPost has learnt. Further, the ministry was forced to recruit a retired prosecutor early this year to help speed up the process of reducing the backlog. “The data clearing operation has shown high workload ratio per prosecutor and an imbalance in the allocation and distribution of cases,” he told the council.
The minister further added: “To address this, the DPP has started a process of offloading prosecutors with high cases to those with less case. One retired prosecutor has been engaged on contract terms starting July to alleviate this.” Besides this, the DPP is in the process of opening additional offices in Selibe Phikwe this year to ease congestion in the already existing offices. According to records seen by this paper, Botswana Police Services has 6 625 cases aged 18 months which they submitted to DPP for prosecution but have yet to be tried. The BPS has since introduced waybill registers to account for cases submitted to and from DPP to avoid any clash in future.
To facilitate this, Criminal Justice Forum advised that mutually reinforcing the process between the police, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the DPP should be done. This will also include cases under investigation and ready for prosecution.
THERE IS BACKLOG AT AOJ AS WELL
The Administration of Justice (AOJ) which is also grappling with a backlog of cases has procured equipment for real time recording and reporting as a way of reducing the load. The piloting and roll out of the equipment, will be implemented in the second quarter at Gaborone high Court division, this publication has learnt.
The minister also revealed that during a human trafficking training earlier on, the 17 judges and 47 magistrates present were also sensitised on the need for all actors in the AOJ to develop systems for dealing with backlog cases. Further, the AOJ has opened additional Magistrates courts in Kang, Shakawe and Nata. “The effect of this has been the reduction of the workload in the Courts, especially those coming from Lobatse and Francistown respectively.” The defence ministry will be the busiest in the coming parliamentary session where a number of bills will be debated. Further, the ministry will conclude some military deals they agreed with other countries.
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.