The Commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Lieutenant General Placid Segoko escaped prison by a whisker on Friday following an order by High Judge Zein Kebonang that he should be arrested and detained.
Kebonang had issued a warrant of arrest against Segokgo after he was found to be in contempt of court for failure to comply with a judgment to reinstate two BDF officers who were dismissed from work. The Attorney General Chambers on Friday however acted swiftly to save’s Segokgo from prison by appealing Justice Kebonang’s judgment. Following a settlement agreement between Matlhogonolo Phuthego of the Attorney General Chambers and Othusitse Mbeha of Boko Attorneys, Court of Appeal Judge Justice Isaac Lesetedi engrossed the settlement by suspending Justice Kebonang’s order. A letter from Segoko reinstating BDF officers Thabang Tlhapisang and her boyfriend Kozondu Uariaua on the basis of Kebonang’s judgment was also made an order of the court. Earlier on Justice Lesetedi took issue with Kebonang’s judgement saying it was littered with glaring injustice which the Court of Appeal cannot close its eyes to. Lesetedi argued that Kebonang did not provide reasons why he issued an order against Segokgo to be arrested and detained. He also found that the BDF and the Attorney General were not notified of the intention by Boko Attorneys to bring an application before court to have Segokgo detained for being contemptuous. He also said that under the High Court rules there are various punishments that the court can impose. He said since the matter was not a criminal one the judge should have imposed a fine. “Why are you holding on to a judgement like that? Can you take away a person’s liberty without notice? When the court order was delivered, were you furnished with reasons,” Lesetedi asked Mbeha to which the latter answered in the negative. The judge also wondered why the matter was brought on urgency saying the two parties had been holding meetings to discuss the reinstatement of the two officers. Lesetedi also said of Kebonang’s judgement “procedurally got it wrong. I’m prepared not to ignore this gross injustice.” Kebonang had instructed the police to arrest and detain BDF commander with immediate effect for a period of 30 days. “The commander of Botswana Defence Force is hereby found to be in contempt of Court and a warrant of arrest is hereby issued for the immediate arrest and detention of the commander of Botswana Defence Force Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo. The said lieutenant should be detained with immediate effect,” reads the court order. In his appeal, Segokgo said the matter was urgent and required the normal rules of the courts relating to time and service to be dispensed with for one or more of the following reasons: “The honourable court handed down judgment against me the effect of which is immediate; that I be arrested and detained immediately for a period of 30 days; That the police are directed to carry out the order with immediate effect,” he said. Segokgo said “It is clear therefore that this order has drastic consequences against me personally as I have to be treated like a convicted criminal and to be locked up in prison with immediate effect for things i am allegedly to have done in my capacity as the commander of BDF.” He said he was further convicted without being given a hearing as he was only served at 0925hrs but the court at the time had already set to determine the matter. “The alleged violation of the court order if any was not wilful on the basis that following the judgment of the 18 November 2016, the respondents wrote a letter with a proposal for consideration and met my officers to discuss the same,” he said.