There is a simmering tension and somehow a cold war between two sister organisations; Directorate on Public Prosecution (DPP) and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) with regards to prosecuting powers.
The animosity comes from a truck load of cases that are currently pilling up at DPP offices across the country, with the prosecuting authority is struggling to deal with the backlog. This tension was also sparked by the Criminal Justice Forum which advised that there should be an introduction of mutual reinforcing processes between the police, DCEC and the DPP. This was to include cases under investigation and those ready for prosecution.
Currently there are 7200 dockets before the DPP awaiting prosecution while Botswana Police’s large stations also have thousands of dockets waiting for the same. The backlog of cases has coerced the investigating agency, DCEC to take interest in prosecuting the criminals to assist its sisters, of which DPP is strongly against.
“The DCEC has always been concerned about the slow disposal of corruption cases at court, although this is not a unilateral effect, it dents the public perception on the effectiveness of the DCEC even though the DCEC does not prosecute its cases,” DCEC Public Relation Officer, Lentswe Motshoganetsi told WeekendPost this week. “Therefore it is essential that the DCEC be given prosecutorial powers in order to address this problem.”
The DCEC spokesperson contends that though the crime busting agency has limited resources in terms of manpower and technical capacity, Government continues to assist whenever requirements arise in order to capacitate the DCEC. “You may realise that there are new units that are being institutionalised at the DCEC such as the Anti-Money Laundering Unit. It is our commitment therefore that once the prosecutorial function has been extended to the DCEC, posts will be sourced from Government to augment the current number of attorneys at the DCEC,” he said.
Currently the DCEC has close to 10 lawyers working with the investigations division on cases, according to Motshoganetsi. The DCEC and DPP clash over prosecution is exacerbated by the fact the two institutions often hold different view on cases that the former have investigated. DPP sometimes refuses to prosecute some cases on the basis that the cases were not properly investigated casting doubts on DCEC ability to thoroughly investigate cases, especially those involving high profile figures.
“The issue of files moving between the DCEC and the DPP is a usual practice. To reduce the delay caused by that, the DCEC has adopted a prosecution led investigation; whereby investigations are done with constant advice form an officer from the Legal Service Division. This has tremendously improved the quality of investigations and improved the turnaround time on investigations,” Motshoganetsi said.
“The DCEC has seasoned investigators who are specialists in different fields such as engineering, finance and accounting, criminal justice, law, forensics etc. We continue to recruit specialists in different disciplines as per the dictates of anti-corruption and sound investigations.” DCEC spokesperson however believes that there is a mutual relationship between the DCEC and the DPP as there are instances were officers from the two agencies form task forces in order to expedite investigations.
“It is also worth noting that in December 2019 the two agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding which focused on improving service delivery by the two agencies. It is our belief as the DCEC that going forward, this MOU will assist in enhancing the investigation and prosecution of corruption matters.”
DPP WANTS TO BE SOLE PROSECUTING AGENCY
Despite the DCEC expressing desire to have prosecuting powers, the DPP is having none of it as it believes it will be detrimental to people who are subjected to investigations. “We want to protect Batswana from intrusive organisations and possible malicious prosecution,” DPP Director Stephen Tiroyakgosi told WeekendPost this week. A keen interest from DCEC to institute legal proceedings against perpetrators can cause conflicts between the two institutions, argues Tiroyakgosi.
“Where we come from, you cannot be a judge on your own matter because you are most likely to be clouded by your organisational demands and therefore prosecution needs a sober mind,” he said in an interview. The Director who joined DPP in 2017 is playing down reports that there could be a toxic working relationship between his organisation and DCEC and maintained that everyone should remain in their lanes. More often than not, Tiroyakgosi says, his office has rejected DCEC a number of cases when the DPP felt that the evidence brought by the investigating arm is not concrete enough.
“If we disagree we close the matter or go for re-investigation because we don’t want to recklessly prosecute people. We can be sued for malicious prosecution and we want to be sufficient in our job.” However, according to informants, this could be what is frustrating the crime busting agency, hence their desire to prosecute their own cases. As per Tiroyakgosi’s admission, a case sometimes has to be closed if the DPP disagrees with the evidence that is brought before them and the DCEC also insist that the evidence is enough for prosecution.
Asked why there are so many backlog cases, Tiroyakgosi laments about lack of resources in his office. “Currently, we need an extra 150 prosecutors to push the cases and remember if we hire a prosecutor we also have to employ other support staff and it is costly,” he said. DPP has around 200 prosecutors across the country, a number which is not enough to deal with the demands of the job. DPP Director is however convinced that having one organisation as the prosecuting office is the best model to protect the nation from subjective trials.
“I know at times the DCEC might be frustrated by us being the sole prosecutors because they may feel they have done the best in investigations, but like I said you cannot be a judge in your own matter,” he said. DPP’s success according to its Director is mostly on winning cases and for them to achieve that, they liaise with investigating agencies on what kind of evidence is key for government to win a case. “Even the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) we do advise. Of course they give intelligence leads, but we have advised them not to only give leads but there should be something from that so that when others investigate there is indeed something.”
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.