Saturday, May 30, 2020

Double jeopardy for Sebego as BFA strikes back

BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE

Smarting from their loss of the case it instituted against its former president Tebogo Sebego, Botswana Football Association (BFA) has struck back.

On Thursday the BFA wrote a letter of complaint against Sebego’s ‘conduct’ in terms of article 116 of the BFA Disciplinary Code

In the complaint, which is allegedly signed by the current BFA president MacLean Letshwiti and dated 4th July 2019, the association complains that Sebego ‘has through his Facebook profile made utterances that we consider to have brought the name of the association, its structures and officials into disrepute contrary to Article 3.7 read together with Article 3.8 and 3.9 of the BFA Code of Conduct…’

The reinstating of the charges, albeit as a ‘complaint,’ has brought concerns over whether the association will not be flouting the laws of natural justice, more especially as related to the issue of double jeopardy.

“Charging Sebego with the same or similar charge he was exonerated from and based on the same facts as when he was charged will contravene the legal rule of double jeopardy,” said a source.

The wording of the letter is, word for word, no different from the charges instituted against Sebego, with the only difference being this time around the letter is a complaint and not a call for Disciplinary Hearing.

Back then, the BFA slapped its former president with four (4) counts of ‘bringing the name of the association, its structures and officials into disrepute contrary to section 3.7 as read together with article 3.8 and 3.9 of the BFA Code of Conduct.’

The charges were allegedly due to Sebego’s continued Facebook utterances which the association perceived as undermining of the BFA and its integrity.

In an act that would go on to bite the BFA on their backside, it is alleged that Letshwiti, acting out of disregard for proper BFA judicial structures, wrote a letter to his predecessor inviting him ‘to appear before the BFA Disciplinary Committee on the 15th November 2018.’

When the matter was presented before the BFA DC in 11th December, Sebego objected to the charges, which he said were akin to ‘unlawful and unprocedural conduct by Letshwiti and his National Executive Committee (NEC).’

During his arguments, Sebego had argued that in charging him, the Letshwiti led NEC had deliberately acted in violation of the association’s Disciplinary Code.

In particular, Sebego was of the view that his charges by the BFA contravened articles 116 and 117 of the BFA Disciplinary code.

According to article 116, ‘Any person or body may report a conduct that is considered incompatible with BFA regulations to the judicial bodies in writing.’

Once the matter is reported, article 117 shows only then can the BFA Secretariat ‘carry out the necessary preliminary investigation ex-officio under the Chairman’s guidance.’

In his arguments, Sebego had argued that Letshwiti and the NEC had failed to report his alleged transgressions to the Disciplinary Committee.

He also had pointed out that by investigating the matter outside the guidance of the judicial structures and charging him, Letshwiti and the BFA had become ‘complainant, investigator and prosecutor’ in their own complaint.

In its submissions, the BFA had conceded there was an ‘irregularity of the process as to how the charges were brought about’ but believed ‘the irregularity of was not of such grave nature as to warrant of dismissal of the matter.’

In its written judgement, the BFA DC ruled that the charges against Sebego ‘are a procedural irregularity’ as they contradict articles 116 and 117 of the BFA Disciplinary code.

The BFA DC agreed with Sebego that there had been no written complaint by any ‘person or sports body’ reporting any conduct by the former BFA president that may have been considered ‘incompatible with the regulations of the BFA or FIFA to ‘the judicial bodies.’

It also concurred with the former BFA president’s argument that there were no investigations carried out under the guidance of a judicial body chairman as per the BFA regulations.

“The charge is pursuant to a preliminary investigation. None was done here, certainly not in compliance with the code. A report on the other hand follows a value judgement by the body or person making the report,” so reads the BFA DC judgement.

“It is the committee’s view that the proceedings are irregular, improper and not in compliance with the Code of Conduct and should therefore be struck out. It is important that the process by which parties are brought to book must not only seem to be fair, it must in fact be seen to be fair in so far as it is carried. The adage justice must not only be done but must be seen done rings true,” the BFA DC ruled.

Reached for comment, Sebego acknowledged receiving such a letter but said he is restricted to comment as he is yet to respond to it.

He however said he was surprised that the BFA would complain against him on a matter which has already been dealt with by the association’s Appeals Committee.

“After losing the first hearing, the BFA appealed the verdict which they also lost. The Appeals Committee concurred with the DC that the charges were a procedural irregularity and stood to be struck out,” Sebego explained.

“As it is now, the BFA is starting the same case which has already been closed and I am not sure if they intend to take it before the judicial structures again,” he said.

Asked why the BFA would resuscitate such complaints or charges against him, Sebego said he could not say but added he cannot rule political motivations.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.