Sunday, October 17, 2021

BDF’s love birds back in court

The case in which Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander, Lt. General  Placid Segokgo was almost jailed late last year by Justice Kebonang for defying a court order when he refused to reinstate, BDF officers, Thabang Tlhapisang and her lover Kozondu Uariua will be heard by  Court of Appeal Judges this week.

Kebonang’s judgment had ruled in favour of the BDF’s infamous ‘Romeo and Juliet’. They were fired for allegedly contravening the military’s Policy on Fraternization and Sexual Harassment two years ago.

The couple that is currently back at work at Francistown and Glen Valley bases respectively, filed a notice of opposition on January 23, 2017 through their attorney Othusitse Mbeha.

Segokgo who is represented by the attorney General argues that Kebonang misdirected himself on disciplinary hearing which was not before him and is seeking the Court of Appeal to quash his decision to reinstate Tlhapisang and Uariua.

State argues that BDF Commander, General Segokgo  was empowered by BDF regulation 7(b)(i) to dismiss the duo from work.

Segokgo contends that Kebonang erred in many aspects of fact and law when he ordered the reinstatement of the couple. 

His argument is that as the Commander he had acted lawfully in dismissing the couple and that the letters issued to the two were identical as it was said in the ruling.

“The court erred when it held that an intimate or sexual relationship between officers and enlisted personnel was inappropriate only when, among others it compromised or appeared to compromise the integrity of the supervisor’s authority or chain of command, cause actual or perceived or unfairness, involve or appear to involve in the improper use of rank or position for personal gain,” argues Segokgo.

“The court failed to realise and appreciate that the Commander dismissed the pair for their convictions. The fraternisation policy was only an issue before the disciplinary proceedings.  The Commander’s decision to dismiss the duo and the disciplinary proceedings are two separate proceedings founded on two different enabling provisions of law.”

Lawyer representing the BDF couple, Othusitse Mbeha is praying that the Court of Appeal should dismiss the State’ appeal.

Mbeha says the BDF Commander’s decision was unreasonable, irrational and speculative.

In addition, he says the couples’ relationship is not prohibited by the Fraternization and Sexual Harassment Policy to an extent that they are not working under the same unit, supervised one another and accordingly there is no proof of compromising and undermining the word of command.

“The appellant’s decision offends the double jeopardy principle as enriched in section 115 of the BDF act,” he said.

Mbeha says Segokgo has failed to make a proper determination about the couple to continue serving the army as enjoined by the empowering regulations in question.

He said Kebonang was correct and his decision does not deserve to be disturbed or sat aside by the appeals court.

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