Last month President Mokgweetsi Masisi relieved the Deputy Secretary, Justice at the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security Nchunga Nchunga of his duties with immediate effect. Having spent the whole day at work on the 11th September 2020, at night his driver dropped him a bombshell that left him shocked for life.
The former government top lawyer who served as Deputy Attorney General before joining Ministry of Defence, was only six months into his renewed 5 year contract upon his sacking. In May this year during the first lockdown, Nchunga served a four day informal suspension after he issued former President Lt Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama with a special COVID- 19 movement permit for exceptional persons during lockdown to go and donate food hampers and other equipment to use during lockdown, a move that did not sit well with seniors at the ministry.
According to Nchunga, he was at the time tasked with issuing special permits for lawyers and some of the people that he helped was former President Khama’s lawyers. “They requested that the former President and three of his staff be issued with permits because they are going to donate food hampers which was in line with COVID- 19. I did not see any wrongdoing in issuing those permits, in fact it would have been disrespectful for me to refuse,” said Nchunga.
Upon reporting the matter, it appeared it rubbed some people the wrong way. His immediate supervisor summoned him and the permits were revoked immediately. Four days later Nchunga was summoned to Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) offices where he was interrogated for more than three hours.
According to Nchunga the line of questioning was divided into five categories, top of the agenda was why he issued Khama with a permit because he (Khama) is not an attorney and that as the former President he should know better that he is being assisted through the Office of the President (OP). Nchunga replied by saying it was Khama’s lawyers who asked on his behalf so he did not see any wrongdoing as he was assisting lawyers.
“They also questioned why the permit was issued at night but as far as I can recall I assisted them around six in the evening because I left office around half past six in the evening.’’ The next morning when he briefed his seniors, Nchunga was attacked for helping former President Khama and was immediately withdrawn from a team that was issuing permits. The DIS also questioned Nchunga about his relationship with former President Khama. A relationship which he denied.
Nchunga told them that the only relationship he had with Khama is that of a former head of State and nothing more than that, the same sentiments which were also shared by Khama himself. They also interrogated him on why he was suspended from issuing permits if he insists he did nothing wrong. In May this year WeekendPost ran a story on Nchunga’s suspension but at the time Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Matshediso Bokole denied allegations of Nchunga’s suspension.
Bokole said the Deputy Secretary of Justice had been home because of an ‘extreme social distancing’ policy. “As a Ministry, we have a Duty Rotary, and we alternate duties. He (Nchunga) is yet to resume duty tomorrow, but I am expecting everyone, including him today (Thursday) because we have a meeting,” she said. According to Bokole their Ministry was responsible for issuing permits that deals with private security services and law practitioners.
The former Deputy Attorney General was controversially transferred to Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security with immediate effect last year (2019) June after he disagreed with government over the arrest of former DIS chief Col Isaac Kgosi. Pundits and social commentators also point a finger at Nchunga’s controversial 11th Studio album which was released a few weeks ago. The 14 track album is a mix of different genres with five controversial songs which sing praise to every leader in the country current and in the past.
In one of the songs Nchunga talks about Leader of the Opposition Dumelang Saleshando and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) President Biggie Butale. Taking into consideration that he works for government, his detractors say it was always a suicidal move for Nchunga to praise opposition.
In his words Nchunga submits that music is universal and has no boundaries. “I was simply celebrating other leaders across the political spectrum. Right now there are two leaders, one in government and one in opposition. Obviously I voted one, just that one is an opponent nothing qualifies us from celebrating them. There is absolutely nothing controversial,” said Nchunga.
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.