Saturday, January 22, 2022

Daggers drawn out in the Law Society elections

The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) holds it’s Annual General Meeting this coming weekend in the resort town of Kasane and already daggers have been drawn out in the campaign for the Chairmanship of the Society. Lawyers across the country will converge in Kasane to support either of the two factions that are jostling for the control of the LSB. There are two lobby lists, one said to be headed by Botswana Football Association (BFA) President Tebogo Sebego while the other is led by the current LSB Chairman, Maun-based Attorney Lawrence Lecha who will be seeking re-election at the AGM. Last week some lawyers claiming to be rallying behind Sebego wrote a document, which was leaked to the media, outlining a plethora of accusations leveled against Lecha and why he should be denied the opportunity to continue leading the Society.

Among the accusations was that the Lecha-led council has abdicated its authority to the Executive Secretary “to act as a demi-god of the law society to actuate suspending and striking of Attorneys from the Roll on flimsy grounds of alleged misconduct”. They accused Lecha and his Council of always being hostile and insensitive to lawyers. Sebego’s supporters also accuse Lecha for the allegedly hefty salary that is earned by the Executive Secretary. This week however, a team of lawyers on Lecha’s side came out with guns blazing in defense of their candidate. They described as laughable, accusations leveled against Lecha.

They maintained that while they had preferred to confine their campaign and lobbying to lawyers without going out in public, they feel it is only proper that they use the same platform, media, to sell their candidate as the route has been cleared by the Sebego camp. “Lecha is a gentleman and he has always insisted we should embark on a clean campaign, devoid of character assassination on our rivals. We however find ourselves with no option but to return fire with fire”, said one of the lawyers, all of whom preferred anonymity because the Sebego camp did the same. They said it was shocking that Lecha could be blamed for the Executive Secretary’s salary when he found the pay structures already in place when he took over.

In fact, they say what surprises them is that Sebego’s team is complaining about the current Executive Secretary Tebogo Moipolai when Sebego is the one who head-hunted him while he was LSB Chairman, long before Lecha came into the picture. Lecha’s team says Moipolai does not make arbitrary decisions as he only sits in the Disciplinary Committee as its Secretary and that the Disciplinary Committee is made up of five senior lawyers who can’t all be influenced by Moipolai. They said it was preposterous to blame Lecha and Moipolai for publishing the names of lawyers who have been struck off the roll as the decision to do so was endorsed by lawyers at the General Assembly and it was done in the interest of the public. They said in all instances where the LSB has struck off lawyers from practicing, those who appealed their cases at the High Court lost their cases as the Courts upheld the LSB decisions. According to them, Sebego’s team hostility towards Moipolai could be borne from the fact that in October this year, Sebego was fined P3000 by the Law Society Disciplinary Committee for professional misconduct.

They said the Law Society books have been audited every year and for the last five years they have never been in the red as their balance sheet has always come out healthy. The irony, they say, is that while the Sebego team wants to blame Lecha’s Council for what is happening, Sebego is part of the current Council and has been in Council for 8 years. They accused Sebego of being ungrateful as Lecha is the one who pleaded on his behalf last year when the Council wanted to remove him from sitting in the Judicial Service Commission. They said Lecha is the one who prevailed on the Council members to retain him. Lecha’s team is also of the view Sebego’s candidature is driven by power hunger as he already has his plate full with responsibilities that come with him being the BFA President. In fact one of them claimed that Sebego’s team holds campaign meetings at Lekidi Centre (the home of BFA) and wondered if they are paying for the venue. Asked on what Lecha has brought in ever since he took the reins at LSB, his team said he is the only Chairman who came and managed to create a healthy working relationship with the Chief Justice which in turn benefits the public as the two dialogue from time to time to find solutions to quick dispensation of justice.

Reached for comment on Monday evening, Sebego denied that he was standing for the Law Society Chairmanship. He confirmed that he was in Lecha’s rival team but denied that he will be leading the team as its preferred Chairman. “I’m not standing as Chairman or even Vice Chairman. I have only offered to come on board as ordinary Council member so that I can help my team with my expertise in the event they win the LSB leadership”, said Sebego. He said his name may just have been used to sell his team as he is more prominent in the team. He however didn’t give out the name of his team’s candidate for Chairmanship. Sebego acknowledged that he is the one who head-hunted the current Executive Secretary and says as such he is better placed to give a proper assessment of his performance. He said a lot of lawyers are disgruntled by Moipolai’s way of doing things at the Society because he is bringing a wedge between lawyers and the society. He said perhaps it was about time the Executive Secretary ceased to sit in both the Council and the Disciplinary Committee.

On charges of professional misconduct, Sebego acknowledged as true that he was charged but said he has since written to the Disciplinary Committee to express his dissatisfaction on the matter. He said his secretaries had failed to forward to him a letter from a client and as such he failed to respond to the letter and that was how he attracted the wrath of the Disciplinary Committee. For his part, Lecha said it would appear his only sin was to refuse to fire Moipolai when some members in the rival team asked him to do so since he became Chairman. “They wanted me to fire him but failed to advance any sensible reasons”, Lecha said. He said it was not only going to be unfair to fire Moipolai for no reasons but it was also going to be costly for the Society as they were going to have to pay off his contract.

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