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A marquee law firm is staking its reputation on the authenticity of a startling claim that a Deputy Sheriff-issued document with all surface appearances of legitimacy was actually a work of forgery. The alleged forgery cost the former Director of National Museum and Art Gallery, Tjako Mpulubusi, a fortune in property that was auctioned in restitution. Beyond this one incident, there is the more troubling question of how rampant the issuance of forged documents could be among Deputy Sheriffs.
The document in question is a Notice of Sale in Execution that was issued in 2004 by Deputy Sheriff Keitumetse Waheng in relation to property owned by Sedze Ramantswe Investment, a company owned Mpulubusi and his wife, Josephine Mpulubusi. Following the issuance of the notice, an auction sale at which only one person (Banthasetse Merementsi, a Botswana Democratic Party councillor) showed up was held at Sedze Ramantswe Dairy Farm which is about 10 kilometres south west of Kodibeleng. The latter is a small village, 15 kilometres west of Shoshong. The notice lists the following items as property that was to be sold: 14 dairy cows – mixed breed of brown Swiss and Friesian; six cattle of Tswana/Brown Swiss; 10 calves all branded TLA; one female ostrich; three pigs; one deep freezer; 1 400-litre cooling tank; one batch pasteurizing machine; one HR2 Lister engine and generator combined; 39 50mm galvanized pipes with mono head 1.5ky moto; one gypsy Caravan; 1 48kg gas cylinder; and one 19kg gas cylinder. As the only buyer who showed up, Merementsi was able to buy the property being auctioned off with no competitive bidding.
A copy of the notice shows that it was approved for issue by the National Development Bank’s Senior Corporate Counsel, Benbella Rwelengera. A signature, purportedly Rwelengera’s, has been appended. By law, notices of this nature are published in the Government Gazette through an editorial process that is managed by the Government Printer. The notice bears what from all appearances is a September 10, 2004 Government Printer date stamp. The notice would have been stamped when Deputy Sheriff Waheng paid a fee for the notice to be published in the Government Gazette. It is also supposed to be published in two local newspapers.
As part of a much broader legal campaign, Mpulubusi is challenging the legality of that auction. Firstly, the notice was never published in the Government Gazette as required by law. Secondly and more importantly, he engaged the services of Bayford & Associates, a marquee Gaborone law firm, which managed to extract a startling admission from NDB. According to court documents at the Gaborone High Court, the bank says that it never authorised the sale of all the property that was listed in the suspect notice.
Mpulubusi and NDB’s story goes back to 2001 when the bank gave him a P272 000 loan which he was to repay with monthly instalments of P5211 per month. On defaulting, the bank moved to seize his property. Merementsi, whom Mpulubusi contends was the only bidder, bought the property listed in the controversial notice for P140 000 - which was insufficient to cover his debt to the bank. Merementsi is a BDP councillor in the Central District Council and last year, Mpulubusi wrote the Council Secretary alleging that Merementsi had connived with Waheng to swindle him of his property.
With the NDB loan, Mpulubusi had started a dairy project, supplying milk to Bushmen pupils attending primary school in the villages of Otse and Mokgenene. Prior to that, it had been Merementsi supplying the milk. In his letter to the Council Secretary, Mpulubusi alleges that “Deputy Sheriff Waheng and Merementsi had colluded to eliminate the Ramantswe Dairy Farm.” It adds that the councillor and deputy sheriff colluded to “stage the auctioning of my dairy herd”, with the former as the sole bidder, for the sum of P140 000: “This transaction never appeared anywhere in the documents of NDB. Until March 2017, NDB cannot account for any of the items [falsely] auctioned by Waheng to Merementsi.” The letter’s all-caps title pretty much sums up the complaint: “I, Tjako Mpulubusi, humbly requests your invoking executive powers vested upon you to verify whether Councillor Merementsi’s conduct conforms and complies with the code of conduct and ethics expected of a BDP councillor when he indulges in the recidivistic surreptitious collusions with a rogue NDB syndicate characterized [by] misinforming authorities, faking acquisitions of attached properties disregarding terms and conditions stipulated in the High Court writ and repeatedly making false statements to public officers while he is under oath (Oct 2004-2017)”
Merementsi says that the letter defames his character, is prejudicial to his standing in society and is suing Mpulubusi for P300 000 at the Gaborone High Court. Bayford & Associates are defending Mpulubusi and in the latter’s summary of evidence, say the following about the suspect Notice of Sale in Execution: “[Merementsi] had for years purported to have purchased the dairy cattle of [Mpulubusi] at an auction. However, at close inspection with National Development Bank, it became clear that said statements by [Merementsi] were not true. National Development Bank have made it clear that it had only sold the piece of land being Tribal Lot 45 LP to [Merementsi]. National Development Bank have made it clear that it only sanctioned the sale of the piece of land and not the movables on the farm.”
Another part of the summary of evidence says that the contents of the letter relate to “a matter of grave public concern – corruption and abuse of public office – concomitant with staggering financial loss to the government of Botswana and by extension the tax payer.” Away from the case at hand, the latter assertion raises the question whether any other Deputy Sheriffs do what Waheng is alleged to have done.
The defamation continues at the Gaborone High Court before Justice Omphemetse Motumise and could be complicated further by an unusual plot twist. Waheng, whose testimony would have been crucial in unravelling this matter, died last year.