Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Attorney General in contempt of court row

Acting Attorney General Morulaganyi Chamme is at the centre of controversy after he allegedly obstructed the Police from arresting the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Boipelo Khumomatlhare.

This was after Mbikiwa Legal Practice’s deputy sheriff approached the police to arrest Khumomatlhare for contempt of court following a Court Order by Justice Abednego Tafa delivered in 2016 directing Matlhare to comply within 15 days or face jail. 

The case involves 15 employees of the Ministry of Agriculture at the Department of National Veterinary Laboratory based at Sebele who had taken government to court demanding that they be paid among others arrears relating to scarce skills.

In a letter addressed to Chamme, Mbikiwa Legal Attorneys state that on 7th October 2016 contempt orders were issued against the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and he was given 15 days to have purged his contempt. 

The letters say despite the court directives, Khumomatlhare failed to purge his contempt within the stipulated period hence the writ for his personal attachment was issued. 

“We confirm that our deputy approached the Station Commander of Central police Station, as directed by the Court for purposes of executing the writ against the Permanent Secretary. The writ was never executed,” reads the letter.  

It added that “The Station Commander of Central Police Station advises us that they were directed by Mr Chamme not to execute the writ as there had been full compliance with the Court Order of the 11th of March 2016.” 

The letter says consequent to the discussion with the Station, Samantha Mbikiwa of Mbikiwa Legal Practice contacted Chamme to deliberate on the matter, particularly the allegation that the Permanent Secretary had fully complied with the Court order of March 2016. 

“ Chamme and Mbikiwa ultimately agreed that it was necessary for the parties to meet in the presence of their legal representatives to establish whether there has been full compliance with the Court Order which position was and is still disputed by the Plaintiffs,” reads the report. 

The proposed meeting was held on the 23rd of January 27 at 1430 at the Attorney Generals Chambers. Chamme and one Tlhowe attended the meeting. 

“We were informed that representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture will attend to explain their understanding of the terms of the Court order and the position it has been complied with. Much to our chagrin, the representatives never attended the meeting. It was ultimately decided that the meeting should proceed without them,” states the letter. 

As the meeting progressed, the letter says, it became obvious that the meeting was not going to immediately bring fruits due to the absence of those who had been entrusted with the assignment regarding compliance with the Court Order of March 2016. 

“This is particularly correct with regards to the salary arrears that been transferred into their accounts. Both Mr Chamme and Mr. Tlhowe were not aware of the formula that was used in calculating the said salary. Our clients are similarly in the dark as they have not been favoured with any documents detained the formula used,” reads the letter. 

During the meeting, Mbikiwa Legal Practitioners lawyers advised Chamme and Tlhowe that Khumomatlhare has failed to comply with the court order in that he has failed to implement directive No 10 0f 2001 in favour of our clients and extended the benefits derived there from with retroactive effect.

The lawyers also revealed that Khumomatlhare failed to “place our clients in the position they would have been had the directive been applied to them. Placing our clients in the said position they would have been in or extended the benefits of the directive to clients with retroactive effect …”

Mbikiwa Legal Practice accused Khumomatlhare of failing paying their clients salary arrears that resulted from their exclusion from benefiting from Directive No 210 of 2001. 

“The salary arrears paid to our clients so far are not consistent with the explicit terms of Directive No 10 of 2001 and therefore the Permanent Secretary has failed to comply with the Court order: Paying Plaintiffs the arrears with respect to the scarce skills allowance, Paying the Plaintiffs overtime arrears and Paying the Leave days and Paying the Plaintiffs arrears with respect to Government contribution to their pensions,” reads the letter. 

The letter shows that it was agreed at the meeting that the Attorney General would revert with response from the Permanent Secretary within 30 days failing (before 24th March) failing which the law form threatened to take action against the Government.

Attorney General spokesperson Karabo Marumo “… we are unable to revert to you before your Press deadline” while Botswana Police Service spokesperson Witness Bosija referred this publication to Attorney General.

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