Dingake says Minister Matambo should have been notified of report allegations
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo has successfully lobbied the High Court to set aside the contents of a report chronicling misdemeanours at the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC)’s Fengyue Glass Project which is based in Palapye.
Parliament adopted the Fengyue Glass Project report in July 2013 and pronounced criminal liability on some subjects and called for investigation by among others the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).
Matambo, through his lawyers approached the court complaining about breach of the principles of natural justice and the legality of decisions made by the National Assembly. He was suing the Speaker of the National Assembly, Chairperson of the Special Select Committee of Enquiry into the BDC’s Fengyue Glass Project, and the Attorney General.
When delivering Judgement, High Court Judge Key Dingake concurred with Matambo’s legal team that the report was unlawful because it breaches the principles of natural justice. Dingake added that the report contained inaccurate information which was misleading to the public and highly prejudicial to Matambo.
“This Court is acutely aware of public interest in ensuring that public entities are held accountable and that the executive, in all its formations, account to Parliament. But this does not mean that shortcuts should be taken because administering justice in every case that comes to court is even greater public interest. In the temple of justice, justice must prevail at all times. In dispensing justice public condemnation or praise is irrelevant. Justice has its own pace, and even if delayed it has an amazing way to reassert itself in due course,” said Justice Dingake when delivering judgment on Wednesday.
Dingake said it is worth emphasising that judges are or ought to be mortgaged to the rule of law and to be true arbiters of what is fair and what is not. “Parliament as an institution must lead by example. It must be fair at all times and respect rights of individuals. Parliament, the creation of the Constitution, ought to be subject to no authority other than the Constitution, itself. Parliamentarians are oath bound to respect the Constitution, not just in words but in deeds,” he said.
“Having regard to the authorities referred to herein, and the grave nature of the allegations made against the Applicant, who has a right to his good name and reputation, it seems inevitable that he ought to succeed in the relief he seeks,” pronounced the Judge.
Dingake ordered that the findings of the report which was adopted by National Assembly on the 25 July 2013 by the National Assembly be set aside. The Judge said declaring the adoption on 25 July 2013 by the National Assembly of the report which was issued, on or about 28 December 2012 on the Fengyue Glass Manufacturing (Botswana) Palapye Glass Project, in so far it concerned or related to the Applicant (Matambo) was unlawful, and accordingly invalid; for breach of the principles of natural justice, and in particular the audi alteram partem rule, in relation to the Applicant (Matambo).
The judge observed that Matambo occupied a position akin to that of an accused person. “The Applicant’s conduct lie at the centre of the Committee’s examination and is the major subject matter of the Committee’s report,” he said. In the Judge’s considered view, the Parliament Select Committee exceeded its oversight and legislative functions when they proceeded to make pronouncements relating to criminal liability and the need for investigation.
He further said it seemed plain that at the very least, the applicant should have been informed what adverse information was given against him and be afforded a fair opportunity of answering. Dingake expressed that the review of the BDC Fengyue Glass Project report does not harm or in any way undermine the constitutional mandate of Parliament to legislate, “neither does it undermine Parliament’s powers to regulate its internal affairs. It would be a dark day in the legal history of this country if Section 3, worded in the manner it is, is construed to block any person ‘s access to the courts…”
“The costs of this application shall be borne by the respondents (who opposed the application), jointly and severally and one paying, the others to be absolved.
This is the second time that Minister Matambo has taken the court route to clear his name. In the first matter Matambo remained in his position of Minister of Finance and Development Planning while at the same time battling corruption allegations in court, he ultimately was cleared of any wrong doing.
The Botswana Development Corporation petitioned the High Court for the liquidation of Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Company (Proprietary) Limited. The Company is a joint venture between Botswana Development Corporation and Shanghai Fengyue Glass Co. Ltd. The Company was set up in 2007 for the construction of a 450 tonne ï¬‚oat glass plant in Palapye.
BDC was of the view that the project failed to meet its targets, including those of time and budget which, in BDC’s opinion, affected the viability of the project. The Corporation had assessed all possible options and having taken all factors into consideration has decided that the appropriate course of action is, as a Shareholder in the joint venture, to petition the Court to liquidate the Company.
The chairperson of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee of inquiry into the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), Mr Abram Kesupile had told Parliament that the Palapye glass manufacturing project was bound to fail as it was premised on poor diligence, doubtful partner selection and a litany of project implementation violations.
Presenting the findings of the report on the BDC Fengyue Glass Manufacturing (Botswana) Palapye Glass Project in Parliament, Mr Kesupile, who is also Kanye South MP, said the findings revealed that two Batswana women were robbed after presenting their glass manufacturing idea to BDC.
He said BDC then opted to go into a joint venture with Chinese Shanghai Fengyue Glass Company, ignoring their function of encouraging citizen partnership in national business ventures. Kesupile said the company was appointed although it did not have the required technical expertise. He said BDC board members were kept in the dark with regard to the partner selection process.
He also noted that the project was originally estimated to cost P309 million but ran additional costs which increased to over P500 million.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.