Lobatse High Court, Modiri Letsididi has reacted with shock at reports that a complaint has been lodged against him by a litigant for allegedly failing to deliver a judgement timeously.
Responding to the allegations levelled against him, Letsididi said: “The facts are clearly distorted.”
According to Letsididi; “The attorneys had brought an urgent application together with a review application in one application.”
He said he delivered a ruling on the urgent application and made it clear that Order 61 (review application) required that a review can only be addressed on receipt of a record of proceedings from which the decision to review was based.
“Clearly Letlole (the attorney for the litigant) had not read the order because at the time of filing the review application he had not obtained and filed the record. That was the sole cause of delay for a year or so until the record was finally filed and the matter heard on argument on the 24th March 2023,” the judge said.
He said “The judgment was reserved to 8 June 2023. Thereafter the file could not be located despite a diligent search. The file has now been found and judgment will be delivered on Monday.”
Regrettably, Letsididi said, “the learned attorney has for reasons best known to him never raised with me, as courtesy demands, a concern regarding the delay.”
Letters that was filed with Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane and copied to JSC, accuse Justice Letsididi of not delivering a judgement relating to a review application that was brought by a company identified as Drift In against BPC.
The letters indicated that Drift In had filed an urgent/ interlocutory application and review application. Subsequently, one of the letters states, only a ruling for the interlocutory application was delivered, not the review application.
“After a prolonged delay, and the retrieving the file from archives, another date was set for the argument on the review application, for the second time,” one of letters from Letlole Makgane, dated 11th September 2023, says.
The letter indicated that matter was argued in April and a ruling was to be delivered on the 8th June 2023, at 1400 hrs.
“Same was not delivered, and no date has been communicated. This is a matter where the pleadings were finalized in the same year it arose, in 2020,” the letter says.
It further stated that it is the third month since ruling was due, and sixth (6th) month since arguments were made.
“Our client’s fear is that the matter will follow the route it took, and he is called again to pay costs,” the letter reads in part.
“That the matter dragged on from 2020 to 2023 is prejudicial enough, the costs of having to pay twice for a matter that has been argued, makes it difficult not to agree with client. The prejudice suffered cannot be gainsaid,” says the letter.
“We had filed a review application under the aforestated case number (MAHGB 000263 – 20),” Letlole said in another letter dated 3rd December 2023 states that;
“Subsequent to finalization of pleadings, an urgent application was filed sometime in September 2020, and at the hearing thereof, it was agreed that the merits would be consolidated with the application and the argument will be heard on the 6th November 2020,” he said.
He said the matter was heard, and the Court pronounced that the issue of urgent application would be decided on costs given to the succeeding party in the review application.
“The date of judgment was held to be the 27th February 2021, owing to the exigency of the matter, it being a procurement issue, and consequent to the directive of His Lordship that the procurement issues be dealt with. Expeditiously,” the letter noted.
“The 27th February came and passed, and the explanation was that His Lordship Letsididi was held up by Court of Appeal session, such that it delayed in him issuing judgment,” added the letter.
It says two months down the line, in May 2021, the lawyers filed another urgent application for stay pending ruling, however it transpired that the ruling came out on aspect of urgency only and was only handed to the Respondent’s legal practitioners, and in the review application, His Lordship merely stated that ‘from what he saw of the documents’ there were little prospects of success.
“To date no ruling has been rendered on the review application. Several attempts have been made, on the 23rd September 2021 the matter was set down for status hearing, but His Lordship was not there,” the second letter says.
“It was postponed to the 26th November 2021, still his Lordship was not available. To that end, with a full year having passed, and the Respondent at large since an application on an interdict having been dismissed, there is no end in sight for the review application,” the letter read in part.
According to the letter; “The file had been packed as a closed file, and with a plethora of letters written for clarity, we have nowhere to look for except to His Lordship, and the Judicial Service Commission.”
Reports indicate that the matter arose from an urgent application filed by Drift In on the 22 September 2020 the Applicant filed a notice of seeking, in the main, the following prayers; that the BPC should be interdicted and restrained from proceeding any further with the award of Tender NO. 4142/20 for various meters pending the finalization of the parastatal’s decision to annual the tender and the finalization of Drift In’s application for review. The background facts giving rise to these proceedings is that on or around February 2020 BPC floated, to the business community, tender NO. 3890/19 seeking the supply and delivery of “single (1) phase and three (3) Phase PLC Split. Drift In was of the 15 bidders who submitted a bid. The bids were considered by BPC’s executive committee of the Procurement and tender Committee (“PTC”) on the 23 March 2020.
FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.
FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.
One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.
The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.
Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.
In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.
FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.
The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.
The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.
Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.
The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.
Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.
Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.
In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.
It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.
The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.
The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.
One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.
The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.
Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.
The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.
In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.
The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.