Thursday, July 18, 2024

Deputy mayor’s dual roles under scrutiny

Gaborone City Council Deputy Mayor Seikise Lotty Manyapetsa faces trouble with the law over his dual roles of being a politician and sheriff.

The Administration of Justice is asking him to choose between being a politician or Deputy Sheriff.

A letter dated 2nd March 2020, originating from the Deputy Registrar of the High Court Mompati Taolo addressed to Manyapetsa says: “… concerns that were raised with you at the interview namely whether any conflict of interest would arise relative to your appointment as Deputy Mayor.” 

“Subsequently, consideration has been given to the representation you made and also the following:  As Deputy Mayor you are the CEO of Gaborone City Council, a purely political appointment, all activities of the council are done on behalf of and at the behest of the Mayor, be they political or purely administrative,” said Taolo.

He stated that the Administration of Justice was strictly apolitical and the deputy sheriff should, by and large, be representative of its principles and ethos.

“Of necessity a lot of work will issue out of the Gaborone City Council which will require the intervention of the deputy sheriff. As the mayor you will be uniquely placed to decide, directly or through officers, which deputy sheriff is allocated how much work. This is before we even consider the question of how much work you will allocate yourself,” said Taolo. 

The above circumstances, he said, present a clear conflict of interest in that awarding work in a situation where Manyapetsa is also a competitor places him directly in conflict. 

He said in discharging his functions as a deputy sheriff while political consideration tugs at Manyapetsa’s conscience presents a conflict.

“Whether the public cannot decide whether you are acting as a politician or as a deputy sheriff on any given occasion, or, whether you acted as deputy sheriff to further a political objective, they may conflate issues and fail to draw a line between your politics and the apolitical administration of Justice. This may give birth to perception that the AOJ (Administration of Justice) is involved in politics,” said Taolo. He further stated: “It was for the above grounds-in summary of course-that we still insist that your appointment as mayor presents a conflict of interest. As a way forward an to the end that we may bring this matter to a close, you are advised to make clear choice to my office how you intend to resolve the conflict of interest,” he said.

Taolo gave Manyapetsa until 16 March to have resolved the conflict of interest or to have surrendered his practicing license to his office.

The result was that Manyapetsa was struck off the roll. 

A month later, the Citizen Economic Development Agency (CEDA) also joined in and terminated its contract with Manyapetsa.

CEDA chief executive officer, Thabo Thamane, in a letter dated 2nd April 2020 informed Manyapetsa that: “The Agency has been placed on notice of the fact that you have been removed from the list of Deputy Sheriffs enrolled before the office of the Master and Registrar of the High Court of Botswana. The Communication is to the effect that you have been removed from the said roll as 31 March. You are therefore, at law, barred from practicing as a Deputy Sheriff with immediate effect.” 

Thamane added: “The agency hereby terminates the aforementioned contract which is for the provision of Deputy Sheriff Services as you can no longer lawfully discharge your obligations in terms of Service Level Agreement.”

Manyapetsa did not take his removal from practicing as a Deputy Sheriff lying down. He took the Government to the High Court.

In papers before Justice Abednego Tafa, through his lawyers, Jonas Attorneys stated that by reason of being nominated to Gaborone City Council and as a Councilor and subsequently elected by his colleagues as Deputy Mayor, the Registrar of the High Court (which supervises deputy sheriffs) concluded that there is a conflict of interest in him discharging of functions attaching to these offices. 

He contended that there was nowhere in the relevant laws governing Deputy Sheriffs in Botswana or in the contract of agency entered between him and the Government where it is stated that Deputy Sheriffs are prohibited from holding public offices. 

Manyapetsa stated that Taolo’s action was unlawful, wrongful and impaired his reputation.  He added that the decision of Taolo has caused him financial loss. aTherefore Manyapetsa is demanding P2 million from Government for loss of business and also wants the Court to declare that there is no conflict of interest in Manyapetsa serving as Deputy Mayor of Gaborone and Deputy Sheriff and wants to be reinstated as Deputy Sheriff.

Replying, Taolo stated that Manyapetsa’s removal was an administrative decision adding that the latter’s letter dated 10th March did not address issues he had raised in his letter dated 2nd March 2020. 

He added that Manyapetsa’s appointment as a Councilor was apolitical in nature and therefore he could not be appointed as a Deputy Sheriff as this goes against the principles of the Administration of Justice.

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