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Suspended Judges hang out the dirty linen

Judges say Dibotelo promised that lightning will soon strike

The legal tussle between the Chief Justice, the State President and the suspended four Judges of the Lobatse High court promises to send skeletons tumbling from closets if what has already been filed before court is anything to go by.


A petition which was signed by twelve judges and presented to the Judicial Service Commission recently is among the filed documents, which makes up part of the Judges’ evidence in the matter.


In the petition the Judges paint a picture of the Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo as a man  who cannot trust people he work with because he fears they could be bewitching him.


“His intense belief in witchcraft disables him from relating with judges and members of staff without suspicion. He persistently says that his traditional doctor informs him that judges and members of staff are bewitching him and that this coming rainy season lightning will strike with catastrophic effect,” wrote the Judges.


Among those who signed the petition are the suspended four of Key Dingake, Mercy Garekwe, Modiri Letsididi and Ranier Busang. Other Judges who signed the petition include, Tshepo Motswagole, Michael Leburu, Lot Moroka, Godfrey Nthomiwa, K. Solo, Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe, Barnabas Nyamadzabo and Bengbame Sechele.


The Judges blame Dibotelo for victimising the Judges and that he is seeking to destroy the careers of the judges he had suspended because he got intimidated by their comments during a recent Judiciary meeting where the State President was present.


 In the first week of July 2015, the Judiciary held its annual judicial conference at Mahalapye, where the main theme was the resourcing of the judiciary. The conference according to the petition recognised that the judiciary as a learning organisation is in need of resources for continuous training of judicial officers, support staff and its key stake holders and accordingly resolved that the leadership of the organisation should seek resources for training.


The chief Justice was allegedly aggrieved by the resolution taken by the conference on the issue of training and the whole night of Friday he was continuously renting about it.


“On the morning of 1st August 2015 at breakfast, the chief Justice was sitting amongst some Judges, Registrars and administrative staff and continued with his training complaint, and then accused some of the Judges who were vocal about the training issue that they have been receiving housing allowance when they were not entitled to, and that he will use the issue of the housing allowance to destroy their careers,” the petition further reads.


Allegedly the Chief Justice further threatened that he will ensure that they will never become Chief Justices of the Republic of Botswana on the basis that they are not fit and proper.


“He also threatened to publish the issue of the housing allowance in the newspapers so as to destroy careers,” the petition further reads.


 In the cause of that tirade Dibotelo allegedly instructed the Registrar of the High Court of Botswana, Michael Motlhabi to submit the list of those Judges first thing Monday morning.


“Following his threat to destroy careers, on the 11th August 2015, the four judges were given the “career destroying letters,” apparently issued at the instance of the JSC,” the petition added.


The four Judges were suspended after the Chief Justice reported them to the police for having received housing allowances which they were not entitled to.


However the Judges admitted to have received the money albeit unaware and promised to repay the government.


In support of their case is the former Registrar of the High Court, Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa who has filed confirmatory affidavit and revealed that it was not unusual for government employees to be overpaid salaries and allowances.


“In every year the Public Accounts Committee reports instances of overpayments generally in each government department and records action taken. These actions hardly ever include criminal sanction, let alone disciplinary sanction of the accounting officer responsible,” Nthomiwa explained.


During Nthomiwa’s tenure as registrar of the High court, he was responsible for the efficient running of the administration of Justice and in particular the judiciary and their welfare including accommodation.


“I can confirm that the situation of Government accommodation is not unique to the four applicants herein. It has happened to other judges during my tenure and the way it was handled was in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Public Finance Management Act. No one was sanctioned or reported to the police for this,” Nthomiwa will bear witness on behalf of the judges.


The petition which Nthomiwa also signed suggests that the differential treatment with which the current matter of housing allowance has been handled is confirmation enough of the Honourable Justice’s agenda to destroy careers of some judges.


“Referring such an internal administrative issue first to the Judicial Service Commission and then to the police before he could consult with the affected Judges still proves his intent to destroy careers of some judges. The Honourable Justice pronounced his intent to destroy careers long before he conveniently convened the judicial Service Commission to rubber stamp his agenda to destroy careers. We believe had the Honourable Justice divulged his intention to destroy careers to the Judicial Service Commission, they would not have rubber stamped his clearly malicious agenda,” further reads the petition.


The Judges further added that the already mentioned allegations are only tip of the iceberg as there are other matters not stated because of “their extreme sensitivity.”


Dibotelo has however written back to the Judges, refuted the allegations and threatened he would be considering legal options in this regard.


“Each of the signatories including yourself has made highly defamatory statements about me which have been published to the other Judges who did not sign the letter,” the Chief Justice issued the warning.


The Judges had accused the Chief Justice of being a racist and tribalist. In the petition they mentioned that he persistently raise objections about the Court of Appeal being led by a white man in Ian Kirby and that  “at the height of Judge’s trouble with the law, he (Chief Justice) made disparaging remarks about the Judge’s ethnicity as a predisposition for his troubles.

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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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BDF killings of Namibians: Court unable to rule on missing gun

24th January 2022
BDF

The Kasane Regional Magistrate Court refused this week to rule on whether three Namibians and their Zambian cousin shot dead by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) were in possession of a rifle or not prior to their deaths.

Ruling in favour of the BDF members, Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi who presided over the inquest said, “It is acknowledged that no rifle has been produced before court to confirm that indeed the deceased were armed and or that there was indeed a gun shot.”  She said the evidence before the court is that search for the rifle(s) that allegedly triggered the gunfire exchange was done by both Namibia and Botswana SCUBA divers and nothing was found. She said when the said search was done, an area of search was demarcated around the scene area which was partly searched due to water animals such as hippos that launched an attack at the area during the search.

“The search was therefore never concluded. This therefore leaves a gap. To that end, the area not extensively searched, the court cannot make a finding whether the rifle in issue was there or not. This is a very crucial piece of evidence,” added Mopipi. She said the joint search did not conclude the exercise and I cannot properly make a finding of fact adding that that the rifle was there as the BDF allege can therefore not be ruled out.

The deceased are Martin Munilweye Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo, Tommy Sinvula Nchindo and Sivula Munyeme. The four deceased persons died on the night of the 5th November 2020, in the waters of the Chobe River (Southern Channel) near Sedudu/Kasikili Island in Botswana. Mopipi said the incident took place at night, in a gloomy atmosphere and that as at the time, movement in that particular area was restricted and or not permitted.

She said it was the evidence of some of the witnesses that the injuries as observed on the four deceased reflected that they were brutally assaulted and or beaten either before or after being shot. “Their evidence gained support from Witness 34, Dr. Bithoma Thotho Amis who observed post mortem on behalf of the families of the deceased and Government of Namibia. This witness however conceded during cross-examination that the injuries as observed have been caused by other contacts and or impacts such as falling and hitting the hard surface of a wooden canoe,” said Mopipi.

She emphasized that inquest proceedings have very serious consequences and therefore, whatever evidence brought before court must be produced by persons of right qualifications particularly the post mortem report which the court has to rely upon.
“The qualification of the expert is crucial in determining the credibility of the report. Upon assessment of both experts, I am inclined to adopt the reports from Witness 18, who is a qualified pathologist. A closer look at the other report indicates that the author, Witness 34 is not a qualified pathologist and it is meddled by issues outside an expert opinion,” she said.

Mopipi said reports compiled by a consultant Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kaone Panzirah-Mabaka show the causes of death as follows; Sivula Munyeme, gunshot injury to the chest and extremities, Martin Nchindo, gunshot wound to the abdomen and pelvis, Ernest Nchindo, multiple gunshot injuries to the chest and extremities and Tommy Nchindo, gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.

“Medical evidence therefore prove conclusively that the four deceased persons died due to gunshots injuries. It is undisputed that the injuries were inflicted by seven (7) members of the Botswana Defence Force; Lieutenant Moreri Kenneth Mphela, Sergeant Ndingisano Nfazo, Sergeant Puisano Pistor Kgokong, Private Mbikiso Tafila, Private Emmanuel Moganetsi Majuta, Private Barulaganyi Rannosang and Private Oromilwe Motlhabi,” said Mopipi.

Mopipi found that there was a gunshot from the direction of the men to the direction of the BDF section.  “The BDF members retaliated and returned fire. This was done in accordance with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) within the BDF. According to the SOPs, in case a soldier is being fired at, they fire back and do not have to wait for a command,” she said. She added that “The gunfire exchange was brief and after it ceased, they used a torch to light where the men were and established that all the four men were motionless, two in one canoe, one in the other and the other man lying on the edge of the river on the Island.”

She said, “The evidence of the witnesses is that, when they followed the intel, the intent was to conduct an investigation. There was clearly no intent on their part to shoot the deceased, they did that as an act of retaliation.”

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