Former Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Margaret Nasha
The war between Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and former Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Margaret Nasha is far from over, the latest debacle being calls by Nasha for the President of Court of Appeal Ian Kirby’s resignation.
In the usual fashion Nasha once again proved to be a thorn on the flesh of her former colleagues. Her remarks set off government, as rebuttals rolled out from both government and her former party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nasha had over the weekend at an Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Philip Matante East, Francistown rally called for decisive action and the resignation of Kirby as a way of rooting out corruption.
It was not the first time Nasha made public remarks that prompted government and other quasi-government agencies to respond.
In a strong worded statement released this week by the party secretary general Botsalo Ntuane, BDP said Dr Nasha’s remarks “if left uncensored could set in motion an impulse ad haminen (personal) attacks on esteemed members of the judiciary”.
“We have no reason to interrogate Justice Kirby’s submission, save to note that the judiciary as an independent branch of state is in possession of internal mechanisms to address matters where one of their won is concerned,” he said.
Ntuane said it is improper for Dr Nasha to compel government to spring into acting on the allegations making rounds without regard to the doctrine of separation of powers.
“In any case government has already stated her position that there has been no wrongdoing and therefore no basis for Justice Kirby to step down,” he remarked.
Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security earlier this week also released a statement in which they noted that government is satisfied with the explanation and all information disclosed by Kirby relating to him in the Panama papers saga.
Ntuane said Dr Nasha’s remarks undermine the standing of a judiciary which enjoys glowing acclaim for its propriety and probity in the eyes of the citizenry as well as in the international community of nations.
“For Nasha to further question the resolve of government to the fight against corruption is an act of wilful denial of Botswana’s impeccable rankings in good governance and fighting corruption as recorded by many agencies of unimpeachable repute,” he said.
Ntuane remarked that it was under BDP that crime busting agencies like Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) were established.
“No less worthy of note is the imminent enactment of a whistle blowing legislation that will further reinforce the BDP government’s commitment to the war on corruption,” he said.
Kirby was named among those implicated in the widespread international tax avoidance schemes exposed by the Panama Papers leak, published by a wide range of media houses across the world.
Several governments have opened investigations related to revelations in the massive leak of documents.
United States President Barrack Obama stated earlier that the problem of global tax avoidance generally is a huge problem because of dysfunctional legal system as, ‘a lot of these loopholes come at the expense of middle-class families, because that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere.’
Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson was forced to resign from his office amid escalating public outrage that his family had sheltered money offshore.
Kirby had earlier told this publication he will voluntarily resign if he is found to have breached any statute in relation to his office. “I think if I was found to be dishonest or immoral in a way I would personally probably step down,” he said.
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.