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Masisi warns opponents

Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has come out guns blazing in the New Year and sent strong warning to his political opponents – especially those who see him as weak and label him a ‘Yes Sir’ man. The Vice President is certain that is the best bet for Batswana because no opposition party has better policies or sound leaders.  

Among other multiple toned denunciations, the Moshupa-Manyana Member of Parliament chastised the opposition, promised to win back the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s popular vote, create jobs, and win the youth as he “marches to the 2019” general elections to seek the Presidency of the country. “We are going to deliver a sucker punch and the opposition parties won’t know what hit them,” he declared, further stressing that “I know what is coming”.  

In a wide ranging interview with this publication at his residence in Gaborone, the Vice President shared his observations regarding his party, the BDP, the country, and what he intends to do during his tenure as Vice President.

“I may not have the face or the looks you want, but I have the policies of the BDP which can guarantee you a brighter future. I am not going to lie to your children and give them false hopes. I only tell them real and substantive issues,” said Masisi. He said the BDP prides itself in selling practical policies and not selfish falsehoods.

When asked a question – “Are we speaking to the future President of Botswana?” Masisi responded with a bold Yes and pointed to the Constitution, “As long as all factors remain equal, because the constitution does address the issue of incapacitation,” he said.  He said he is aware that there could be others in the party, who want to be presidents, and he cannot stop those who aspire to challenge him but he cautioned that, “it will not be easy – neither will it be wise.”

Masisi was challenged by a quartet of BDP members for the chairmanship of the party and won convincingly at the Mmadinare congress held mid last year. The Vice President declared that he has settled in well into his Vice Presidential duties, a role he has held for the past one year and two months. And he has a word of advice for those who still doubt his Vice Presidency, “They must just accept that I am the Vice President.”

Masisi is the eighth Vice President of Botswana since the colonial era ended.  He began discussing the possibility of him becoming Vice President with President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama a month before his appointment. He was initially appointed Minister of Education and Skills Development and surprisingly at the time, he was already aware that he is the Vice President elect. His appointment to the post of Vice President threw many off and even the book makers and political pundits got all their guessing game wrong about Botswana’s next Vice President. Masisi stated that the BDP culture of caucus has held the party together over the years; and caucus remains the consolidating factor for the party’s future as it prepares for the 2019 homerun. Masisi explained his undying love for the Ministry of Education and Skills development, “it has a special place in my heart as an educationist.”

SPEARHEADING BDP RECRUITMENT, BLASTS UDC FOR VOTE TRAFFICKING

The Vice President said he will interact with Batswana during his tenure, “I have a way of doing things and I am aware of our population dynamics, I know what is coming, my eyes are glued on 2019 as I recruit relentlessly because I am a loyal BDP member,” he stressed. Masisi pointed out that the BDP policies and programs are much better that those of the opposition, “whether combined or in their individual capacities.”

The BDP has indeed been hard at recruiting recently, but it has come with the tag that the ruling party is paying opposition cadres to join it. Masisi does not take kindly to the accusation: We do not buy people, he said, if the opposition thinks that we are buying people, they should tell us if the BMD members were bought to break BNF and BCP, “we do not think of them as buying people. No! It is shocking that people are alleged to have been bought only when they join the BDP,” he explained.

Instead, Masisi accuses the UDC and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), though to a lesser account, of voter trafficking in the last general elections. To drive home his allegation, he zoomed into his own constituency to demonstrate the trafficking he is talking about, “my first margin when I contested and won the Moshupa constituency was 5000, and in the last elections the UDC jumped from 1500 to 3500 votes, it is clear that there was trafficking and we have evidence from eye witness accounts. Buses brought people to Moshupa from as early as 5am and some of them did not even know where the school was so that they could cast their vote.”  

However Masisi said he is not worried by trafficking in 2019 because Government has taken a decision to address the problem. He said there will only be one date for registration while supplementary registration and transfers will be cancelled, according to a proposal that they will put before Parliament soon. He observed that the many dates for registration were opening gaps for voter trafficking. “We want people to win and lose honestly,” he said.

“I challenge the opposition to hold primaries, they are afraid of primary elections, but we at the BDP are determined to promote democracy by holding primary elections at party level. We accepted that we had a dip in our popular vote in the last election amid the voter trafficking by the UDC, but we are a work in progress and we are coming up well,” said Masisi.  He said they are on a high speed recruitment drive and they are and will be “pouncing from all angles without mercy”.

JOB CREATION IS MY BABY

On job creation, Masisi stated that:  “we have an issue with jobs because of our population dynamics and middleclass challenges. But with the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) we envisage to arrest some of these challenges.” The ESP is meant to help catch up with the national development plan and will see government finance projects that were lagging behind from the previous development plans, explained the Vice President.  While admitting that Government has experienced situations where public money was not utilised and returned to the treasury, Masisi noted that they are coming up with means of fast tracking usage of money, while also closing possible gaps of corruption and mismanagement among other things.

According to the Vice President the private sector will be involved more in the execution of ESP projects. He also stated that they will engage registered professional bodies like the Architects and Engineers Registration Boards to harness their expertise when it comes to project implementation. “We are going for mass buildings, we are going to make sure that these buildings are taken first to where they are needed most. Our teachers and health personnel will soon enjoy abundant housing as we roll out this program,” said Masisi. He further allays fears that the ESP is meant to only benefit the ruling party elite and their friends, “As the Coordinator of ESP I have to ensure that this programme is for all Batswana. As the BDP Government, we have presided over numerous decisions that needed us to put aside our party affiliation, the same spirit will prevail under the ESP,” he said.

But there are those who fear ESP will breed or influence corruption, Masisi offers himself as the shield again, “There are tenders that have been advertised already. Our ITTS are EDD compliant and any person who flaunts the EDD policy, I will make sure I come after them myself. We intend to brand all ESP tenders so that they can be distinguished from the normal tenders,” he stressed.

The Vice President is confident that jobs will be created especially through construction and maintenance, but he insisted that jobs must be spread out, “I will not want to see a situation where a company wins tenders in several places, we must share. He said there is a huge backlog of maintenance work which he feels the ESP programme will address and create thousands of jobs.  
Masisi said he is aware that the ESP has brought a lot of excitement among Batswana hence the over 900 companies registered since its announcement but he cautions that things must be done right in order to achieve the envisaged results. He also had a word of advice for Batswana, he warned them against shunning some jobs which end up being given to expatriates – he gave the example of farm work, domestic work, construction work and others.

He also commented on the issue of water and electricity. He noted that the problem is prevalent in the whole of southern Africa but he is surprised that BDP critics fail to broaden their scope and appreciate the El Niño factor as affecting the global community. “They also talk of lack of planning when it comes to water, are they not aware of the national water masterplan? For their information, they must be informed that we know where the underground water is and we are working on bringing the water to the surface, it is not a quick job as they would think,” he said. With electricity the Vice President is confident that they have communicated workable strategies to address the situation overtime.  

WE ARE SORTING WORK PERMITS, VISA ISSUES

On other issues, Masisi addressed the issue of denial of work and residence permits and visas for foreigners or expatriates. He acknowledged that as government they are aware of the issue and they are addressing it. He said there are a lot of factors that are at play when it comes to this issue. He said there is possible corruption, and faults from both sides, being applicants and government officers. He said in most cases the paper work by the applicants let them down especially when they choose to use unscrupulous consultants. “But we are definitely working on the matter because even Business Botswana has made representations to us on the same,” he said.

NOTHING WRONG WITH OUR FOREIGN POLICY

The Vice President also touched on the issue of Botswana’s foreign policy and the participation of Botswana at international meetings. He pointed out that he is the Chief Assistant to the President and he does exactly what the President instructs him to do. He noted that there are sentiments that the President never attends some of the international meetings, “people should be aware that what I share at meetings be it African Union or the United Nations is exactly what the President would have said should he have attended. Even if I am to enter into any undertaking on behalf of Botswana, I follow the script as directed by the President, where there are doubts are inquire and do not commit at all,” he explained. Masisi explained that it is an honour to represent the President at international forums.

Masisi also addressed the participation of Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba in relation to her contest for the position at the Commonwealth. He found nothing wrong with Botswana’s foreign policy and insisted that Masire-Mwamba put up a good and Africa did vote for her. He noted that Botswana’s independence and sovereignty take precedence when decisions or positions on international matters are to be taken. He acknowledged that Botswana has differences with some of her African counterparts when it comes to the issue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) but it is a healthy difference of opinion.

EXPLAINS HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT KHAMA

The Vice President is aware that he has been dubbed Lelope or bootlicker because of the way he relates with the President. He relates that it is unfortunate that most people who pour scorn at his modus operandi do not understand Setswana – the language. His tag of Lelope came to prominence after one of the kgotla meeting he addressed just before elections, when he stated that “ke ngwana wa lelope”. Masisi is still shocked at the level at which some criticise his speech at that kgotla meeting.

Explaining his working relationship with the President, Masisi said his bolope resonates with Setswana culture and being fit for purpose – that is being loyal. He stressed that loyalty is a very important attribute because it shows that you are sincere. But he notes that he a completely different being when compared to President Khama because they are of different generations.

“His Excellency is my elder and I take instructions from him and I execute them sincerely and with precision,” he stated. While Khama and Masisi went to the same school at some stage, the former was way ahead of the latter, “even his twin brothers are older than me,” he said. Masisi however stresses the fact that they were both born into strong BDP principles and their loyalty stems from being loyal to the party and what the BDP stands for in terms of what is good for Batswana in general. There are times when we do not see party line and we take decisions for Batswana and not the party,” he said.

Khama has allocated a number of tasks to Vice President Masisi, he has been assigned to coordinate job creation and poverty eradication; coordinate the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD); he chairs the National AIDS Council; chairs the Rural Development Council; represents the President at various international meetings, among other assignments.  Masisi said he is working Members of Parliament, Councillors, community members, diplomats, NGOs and the business community to execute his mandate meaningfully.

But one thing remains dear to his heart, the constituency of Moshopa-Manyana and its people. “I am the MP for the area, you may take everything else away but not the constituency, I thank the good Lord for the popular vote I got from the Moshopa-Manyana constituency,” he said.

MASISI DISMISSES COMBINED OPPOSITION THREAT

The Vice President follows the ongoing postulations of a UDC that will include the BCP. But he told this publication that they opposition has the right to take whatever route it wants to take. He said it is incumbent on the BDP and its members to nullify any potential opposition threat. “ We are going to hammer them in 2019 and we are already outsmarting them,” he declared. Masisi said he is confident that the BDP popularity will go up in 2019, “we have huge plans for the youth and first time voters, I can assure you that Duma Boko won’t know what hit him.” You should be aware that we created our own opposition in Parliament, the majority of MPs are BMD and originally BDP and we know what they are thinking, they are communicating BDP policies,” he said.

According to Masisi the BMD has annihilated the Botswana National Front (BNF), “the BNF is as good as dead, you can classify it along the likes of Botswana People’s Party (BPP),” he said.
Masisi said every parent want the best for their child. “What is it in the UDC that people could risk even for just two days. We continue to ensure an unblemished children’s future and we still maintain that the future of this country is best mortgaged to the BDP.” Masisi is of the view that Botswana is doing far much better and vows to do better than past generations. The Vice President reminded this publication that President Khama came in at probably the worst time of recession but he managed to save jobs. “It was either people are fired or jobs are saved by not increasing salaries,” he said. Masisi revealed that at some point discussed the possibility of taking a pay cut to save jobs.

Masisi is not entirely dismissive of the opposition, he noted that there are bit of value especially from the likes of the BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe whom he described as “BDP through and through”. He said Ndaba got most of his underpinning and ideas while still with the BDP and more so that his late father Baledzi Gaolathe (MHSRP) was instrumental in the crafting of some of the BDP policies. “Yes his blood father constructed some of the BDP policies and it would not be surprising that Ndaba borrowed from the BDP and those in the UDC start alleging that the BDP copied ESP from them.” Masisi has little to say about UDC leader Duma Boko, “I do not fear him in an election, I will beat him fairly. His contribution to Parliament is below average, all I see is court theatrics and most of the time when I take out the stuff that Ndaba wrote for him nothing remains in his vocabulary,” Masisi. He said taking Boko out of the court room is like taking fish out of pond, “I am sorry to say Boko is failing in Parliament.” Masisi challenged Boko to release the Gomolemo Motswaledi investigation report because his party has accused the BDP of killing Motswaledi.  

POINTS TO NOTE

  • Masisi was Vice President elect before being appointed Minister of Education
  • Cabinet had looked at the possibility of taking a salary to save jobs in 2009
  • Senior Ministers had told Masisi that they wanted to be Vice Presidents
  • Masisi says it will not be wise or easy to challenge him for BDP Presidency  
  • Explains Bolope in the Setswana context  and how it connotes loyalty

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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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