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From OP to DPP: Keetshabe’s new role quizzed

Abram Merryweather Keetshabe

President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama’s decision to appoint current Office of the President (OP) and his legal advisor Abram Merryweather Keetshabe to the position of Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) effective 1st of March 2016 has been received with less enthusiasm by some in the law fraternity.

Keetshabe replaces former Director in the Public Prosecution Leornard Sechele who served in the portfolio for five years until his resignation in June last year which was followed by his untimely passing 3 months later. Sechele succeeded Leatile Dambe who was appointed High Court Judge.

“I can confirm that indeed Merryweather Keetshabe has been appointed to the position of Director of Public Prosecutions at the Attorney General’s Chambers with effect 1st of next month (March),” Government Chief Jeff Ramsay confirmed to WeekendPost in an interview on Thursday. He fills the shoes of the late Sechele, Ramsay continued.

A renowned local attorney Kabo Motswagole of Motswagole Attorneys has stated categorically that “I think there are more deserving people who have dedicated their lives to the DPP in the likes of Matlhogonolo Phuthego, Kabo Leinaeng, Wesson Manchwe,” who could have been considered for the position.

Motswagole continued: “all those gentlemen are career prosecutors. So to reward them with an external boss really says a lot about the current administration.” The notorious attorney emphasizes that to transplant someone from OP undermines their efforts.

According to Ramsay, Keetshabe has accepted the offer and it is a given that he will occupy the lucrative position. The reasons for the appointment are that there was an opening at the DPP and the government had confidence in only Keetshabe to take it up.

“Keetshabe deserves the portfolio as he is a qualified legal Counsel and he has won many cases in favour of government including the infamous CKGR case which rutted government against Basarwa,” he said.

Having acquired a Bachelor of law Degree from University of Botswana, in incorporation with Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, Keetshabe has before the position of General Counsel at OP, also served as; deputy Attorney General (AG) (Civil Litigation), he was also at one point a Master of the High Court, a Deputy Registrar and also a magistrate.

It is understood that, while as deputy AG, he allegedly threatened to abruptly resign from the position following his failed bid to be considered for judge-man-ship at the High Court failed -after trying his luck. However he later made a u-turn on the move and incongruously almost a month later was selected legal advisor to OP.

Prior to that, a position almost similar – special advisor to the president – was occupied by Sydney Pilane under the Mogae administration and when Khama ascended to the office he dropped him, and after sometime appointed Keetshabe. Since then, Pilane and Khama have not seen eye to eye.

However in many instances Ramsay has emphasized that Keetshabe’s position was a General Counsel for the entire OP and not only special advisor to President Khama.

Keetshabe leaves the latter position at OP vacant and Ramsay states that he is “not sure who replaces him at OP as it has not yet been announced or let alone appointment made.”

Another top notch attorney Joram Matomela of JJ Matomela Attorneys also expressed disappointment at the appointment. “Keetshabe’s appointment with regard to more qualifying officers who had applied for the job, who have more experience with prosecutions, is a vote of no confidence on those officers and will further kill the little morale, if there has been anything left since the departure of Leatile Dambe, in that department,” he asserted.

Matomela stressed that the appointment further undermines the independence of the office as Keetshabe has been working directly under the president and the appointment is more like a secondment.

“There is likely to be a perception that the OP is placing officers who are loyal to the regime in view of the fact that even the late Sechele was from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). Some may ask ‘what orders are they being given when handed this post’the celebrated lawyer wondered rhetorically.

However Government mouthpiece emphasized to this publication that, Keetshabe, who will go down in history as the first Motswana to be appointed Chief magistrate, is an experienced and highly respected legal Counsel.

However Ramsay would not be drawn to discuss why some inside cadres were not considered for the top post when probed on the issue by WeekendPost.

“The office of the DPP requires an Independent minded; fearless; sober minded; with high ethical standards must have the attributes of a judge. Knowledgeable in criminal law and evidence,” eminent lawyer Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners also pointed out.

He said the interface of the Constitutional architect of the office of the Attorney General and the DPP ‘‘is a source of great concern for me’’. The Constitution requires that the DPP consult the AG in cases of public importance and we are not told the criteria for determining cases of public importance, he observed.

According to Dingake: “we do not know who must make that determination. It's unclear what the consultation involves, whether it's for information purposes or for decision making as to prosecute or not. Whatever the case that is an encroachment in the prosecutorial functions of the DPP and the exercise of the said powers.”

The office of the Attorney General, he said is advisorial to the Executive and a member thereof. “In this regard it appears to be a strategic and tactical deployee of the Executive arm to thwart prosecutions of matters which the Executive may have interests on.”

The shrewd lawyer indicated that over the years there has been subtle suggestions that matters of national importance be whatever they are, cannot be prosecuted without the consent of the AG. ‘‘This is inimical to the independence of the office of the DPP which lies at the heart of its efficiency,’’ he said.

“The recruitment of the DPP, from the advert, is done by the AG. Why should that be the case if not to influence the appointment of an otherwise compliant person?” In my respectful view there is always a danger of populating independent institutions with people with an executive culture – these are people who professionally grew or appear to have grown within the executive branch or have a long and strong association with the executive, Dingake stated.  

Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi also confirmed Keetshabe’s new role in government this week: “I am pleased to announce the following appointments of Senior Public officers; Advocate Abraham M. Keetshabe is appointed to the office of Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney General’s Chambers with effect from date of assumption of duty.”

Meanwhile Carter also announced the appointment of Mr. Shabani S. Chikanda who is appointed on promotion to the position of Parliamentary Council with effect from 01st March, 2016.

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BONELA speaks on same-sex decriminalization case

18th October 2021
BONELA

In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy. 

The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.

However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world.  The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.

Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.

“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.

The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)

Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.

“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.

“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.

“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.

“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”

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Masisi warns Gov’t officials

18th October 2021
President Masisi

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.

For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.

In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.

According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.

In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled.
Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.

Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects.  During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies.  Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).

 

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Guma’s battle for millions of Pula give Court headache

18th October 2021
Guma Moyo

A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination.  The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.

The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.

Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.

He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful.  Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.

But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB.  FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.

Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.

Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB.  “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.

The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).

FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders.  Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.

In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.

But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings.  “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.

FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries).  The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?

“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.

“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.

He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”

“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.

Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.

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