Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Fight for Palapye billions pits the big names of the town against each other

The Palapye Development Advisory Trust is bracing itself for a bruising legal encounter for control between the previous Board and the current Board.

The Palapye Development Advisory Trust’s assets and combined projects earmarked for development at the Trust’s plot in Palapye are worth over P6,7 billion, according to documents seen by Sunday Standard. 

The previous Board led by businessman Comfort Molosiwa as its Chairperson accuses the current Board led by former Cabinet Minister and former Palapye Member of Parliament Boyce Sebetela of ousting it despite a resolution adopted by Palapye community during a kgotla meeting resolving that the previous Board be retained.

The community had resolved that since the Molosiwa led Board’ tenure was coming to an end it should be extended until covid-19 restrictions had been eased. 

According to the minutes of the resolution by the community who are the shareholders of the Trust, dated 7th February 2020, a copy of which has been seen by Sunday Standard; “The current Palapye Development Advisory Trust Board should be retained until the process of the election of the newly registered PCDT (Palapye Community Development Trust ) Board and the handover are complete.” 

The minutes of the resolution which were signed by the Trust’s Chief Executive Officer David Jibajiba and Molosiwa also state that, “The current Chairperson of Palapye Development Advisory Trust should be retained as a Board member of the newly PCDT appointed Board to provide continuity, guidance and stability.”

As the tussle for control of the Trust boils over, a legal opinion was sought from Ben Thema Legal Consultants. The law firm upheld the argument by Molosiwa led team that the previous Board be retained. The legal opinion document dated 28 June 2021, reads in part; “It is our considered and respectful opinion that emphasis be placed on the resolution that the current Palapye Development Advisory Trust be retained until the process of election of a newly registered Palapye Community Development Trust and handover are complete.” The document notes that, “The former having been entrusted with assets of the community would be responsible for the accounting and auditing thereof, and are therefore the only entity that is in a position to dictate when a handover would be suitable.” 

“The aforesaid could be sanctioned by the community at a kgotla meeting as they are the shareholders of the Trust, and it is therefore their resolutions that supersedes and the precedence over those of any board.” 

The lawyers also stated that, “We would advise that the removed Palapye Development Advisory Trust Board remains in full force and effect, and further that had the Palalpye Community Development Trust been properly constituted, then the current chair of the Palapye Development Advisory Trust ought to have been appointed as board member of the newly appointed board for purposes of continuity, guidance and guidance.” 

The lawyers said any assumption of power before a proper handover at this juncture would be ill-conceived and premature. 

“It is against this backdrop that we opine that indeed, the newly appointed Board of Trustees stands to be interdicted from proceeding to assume office in the absence of fresh resolution of the community, the shareholders to that effect,” reads the legal opinion document. 

Documents also show that former Deputy District Commissioner Odiseng Moruti was implicated in a plot that ousted Molosiwa and his Board. It is understood that Moruti who was also a board member wrote a letter to Molosiwa requesting that a meeting of the Board be convened. It is also reported that this resulted in another meeting being convened at the kgotla to elect a new Board. According to Moruti’s letter dated 26 April 2021 addressed to Molosiwa, “As the deputy District Commissioner for Palapye Sub district, and after consultation with Kgosi, I write to request you to convene Palapye Development Advisory Board meeting within 7 days from the date of this letter.”  In his response to Moruti in a letter dated 28th April, Molosiwa states that, “I assume that you are requesting for this meeting as a Board member. If that is the case, there is a procedure enshrined in the Deeds of Trust clause 12.16 which provides for requesting for an emergency meeting.” Molosiwa also informed Moruti that, “Let also be known that there are budgetary implications concerning the convening of such. More so as you are aware of the current financial constraints which have necessitated a request for bank overdraft of P300 000 any such will be unlawful and it would not be in accordance with Deed of Trust.” 

Contacted for a comment, Sebetela denied being involved in a plot that led to the previous board being ousted.

“It was the Deputy Commissioner, Kgosi and other officio members who informed us that a new Board had been constituted disregarding the resolution of the community. We didn’t quit being members of the Board,” said Molosiwa. 

For his part Sebetela denied being involved in a plot to oust the former Board members stating that at the time when the new Board members were elected he was not in attendance. “I was just informed that I had been elected as the new Chairperson and I did not attend the meeting that elected the new Board,” said Sebetela.  Moruti and Palapye Kgosi Martha Lebang did not respond to a request for comment, despite promising to do so as their phones rang unanswered when contacted for the second time.

Meanwhile documents also show that a developer proposed a mixed-use precinct for the Trust land comprising a total of 326,526m2 of real estate development, with an estimated total development value of P6.7 billion. “This includes for the development of 3748 apartments, 158 free standing houses, a convenience shopping centre, hotel with a convention center office, 120 bed private hospital and pre-school. Another development earmarked for the area include a skills village training facility to stimulate local employment during the construction of the development and to develop a Science Centre as a permanent community facility as part of the shopping centre. 

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