Saturday, July 4, 2020

Court accuses PSP, Attorney General of lying under oath

A bombshell High Court judgement has impugned the intergrity of the Attorney General Abram Keetshabe and suspended Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi and went further to accuse them of abusing their proximity to former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, and lying under oath, raising questions on whether they pass the fit and proper test to occupy the two highest positions in the civil service.

“Keetshabe and Morupisi’s versions of events cannot both be true. One of them has lied to court”, said Justice Ranier Busang in a case in which former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Dr. Micus Chimbombi was suing The Attorney General, PSP, and then President Ian Khama over their refusal to honour an earlier agreement to pay out the remainder of his contract following termination. Khama was however not subpoenaed.

Details of the case which generate a fair amount of oohs and aahs present a damning portrayal of lies, betrayal, deception and intrigue inside former president Lt Gen Ian Khama’s orbit.

The case further reveals how under Khama and Morupisi’s watch, public service performance was sacrificed on the altar of ulterior motives.

It emerges from the judgement that although the Ministry of Agriculture under Chimbombi was the civil service star performer, getting position one(1) in the ministerial reviews, Morupisi on September 29, 2015, Morupisi proposed to his best performing permanent secretary that they should reach a mutual agreement of separation, effectively terminating Chimbombi’s contract of employment.

It was further revealed that on October 5th 2015, Advocate Keetshabe who was at the time employed as General Counsel at the Office of the President (OP), and Chimbombi’s prayer partner went to his “fellow Christian friend’s” office to confirm the mutual termination discussions.

Chimbombi told Keetshabe that since termination was by mutual consent, he wanted to be paid the balance of his contract, which was 31 months’ salary. But the government later reneged on the decision.

When giving evidence the two, Morupisi and Keetshabe, gave contradictory statements as they tried to distance themselves from the initial agreement to payout the remainder of Chimbombi’s contract.

In his judgement, justice Busang states that, “Keetshabe and Morupisi’s versions of events cannot both be true. One of them has lied to court. I need not make a finding on whose version is not true for present purposes,” Justice Busang said.

He said the defence witnesses (Morupisi and Keetshabe) performed dismally in the witness box by telling a lot of untruths. “Morupisi not only contradicted his own evidence and the pleadings. He answered questions that were not asked and volunteered explanations even when it was unnecessary to do so.”

Justice Busang further states that, “Both Keetshabe and Morupisi showed great determination; enthusiasm and desire to have Chimbombi exit the civil service at the earliest opportunity. Morupisi wanted the letter from Chimbombi urgently, whilst Keetshabe on the other hand delivered the message in real time. This is demonstrated by the hyper speed at which Keetshabe moved to Chimbombi’s office as if the skies were falling, interrupting government business; viz, the Minister’s meeting with Chimbombi, without ascertaining its importance. The need for Chimbombi to exit the civil service preceded in Keetshabe’s view any other government business and the fact that he had no information about why his fellow Christian friend as he calls him, had to leave service there and then was of no consequence to him.

In my view Keetshabe’s conduct on the day was unbefitting of both a Christian and a lawyer. Christians are known to have a sense of empathy and compassion; I do not see that in the way Keetshabe approached the matter. He was in my view not motivated by any altruistic considerations; on the contrary he was serving other interests that are best known to himself.

On the basis of the Defendant’s own contradictory pleadings with respect to the legal basis for Chimbombi’s exit; the inadequate evidence; the evidence contradicting itself and the pleadings, there was no basis in law and fact for Chimbombi’s contract to be terminated. Morupisi and Keetshabe took advantage and abused their positions, access and proximity to power to eject Chimbombi from the civil service. I find that there was a mutual agreement for the termination of Chimbombi’s contract of employment which agreement was procured through undue influence. One of its terms was that Chimbombi would be paid balance of his contract of employment or some reasonable amount, which term the Defendants breached.”

The judge also gave Keetshabe a rap on the knuckles for his reproachable attitude in court. “Keetshabe was very irritable under cross-examination, and had implied more than once that the cross-examination was irrelevant, a matter that was not for him as a witness. I had to interject to advise him that Mr Akoonyatse (Chimbombi’s lawyer) was only doing his job and that should be respected. I also had to advise him to wait for Akoonyantse to finish questions before he answered. Before then he was contemptuously interrupting questions with answers.   

Justice Busang ruled that the termination of the Chimbombi’s contract of employment by the government was procured through undue influence and was consequently unlawful.

“The defendants are ordered to pay the Plaintiff the total sum of P1 710 090.20 representing all the remuneration and other financial benefits which would have been due to him for the balance of his fixed term contract of employment.” Chimbombi’s three year contract (which commenced in 2015) was supposed to end in 2018. Chimbombi was represented by attorney Joseph Akoonyatse of Akoonyatse Law Firm while the State was represented by Oteng Thamuku of the Attorney Generals.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.