Monday, March 8, 2021

Gov’t dithers on P24m lawsuit settlement

Local company Harso Surface Solutions is apparently impatient with government’s delaying tactics over an out of court settlement following the former’s P24 million law suit. The matter, which has been dragging on for two years now, was expected to be settled earlier this year following the government’s decision to settle out of court. No progress has been made on negotiations with the company now expressing frustration at the delays. The company filed a suit against the Ministry of Minerals in 2019 in relation to a cancelled burrow pit license subsequently awarded to a company with links to former Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) boss Isaac Kgosi. The government then asked to be granted permission to settle the matter out of Court.

Justice Michael Leburu gave the parties two months to resolve the matter before returning for a status hearing in November, 2019. However, following disagreements over the settlement fee the Ministry reconsidered their earlier decision to settle, before again reconsidering their decision to reconsider.  Lawyers representing the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security had expressed to the High Court their intention to settle the multimillion Pula lawsuit by Harso Surface Solutions (PTY) LTD out of Court before Justice Leburu.

The Attorney Generals representing the Ministry together with Kgosietsile Ngakaagae representing the plaintiff (Harso Surface Solutions) announced the two parties had resolved to negotiate the matter outside the court. “Our client (Ministry) has considered the settlement proposal as submitted by your client and an assessment was carried out to determine the claims based on reports of work done.

Following thereof, our client is prepared to pay P315, 610.00 as reflected in the report which we have attached herein under,” the gov’t attorneys wrote. In addition to the 24 million Harso Surface Solutions had sought a refund of P322, 000 which the company says they spent on prospecting activities they had already commenced in the area. The company had initially also sought compensation amounting to P24 million for loss of business due to the cancellation of their prospecting license. 

“Our Client is not prepared to compensate for loss of business based on the fact that a Prospecting license does not warrant any holder thereof the right to trade. Your client was merely a Prospecting Licence holder as opposed to a Mining License holder and that there is no evidence which informs the loss of business opportunities alleged,” the AG wrote. Harso Surface Solutions were suing the Ministry of Minerals in relation to a cancelled burrow pit license subsequently awarded to a company with links to former Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) boss Isaac Kgosi, by then Minister Sadique Kebonang. The license for the gravel and sand mining site along the new Gaborone-Boatle dual carriageway road, initially awarded to Harso Surface Solutions, was rescinded by then Minister Kebonang ostensibly for the benefit of the Department of Roads.

However, on July 24, 2017 the then Minister Kebonang wrote to the company notifying them of his intention to cancel the prospecting licenses. Advancing reasons for the cancellation, Kebonang said the area within which the company was granted the prospecting silences was needed for the mining of gravel that was to be used for the construction of the ongoing Gaborone-Boatle dual carriageway road. 

Kebonang said he had made a mistake when granting the licenses and acted under wrong assumptions and misbelieve. It remains to be seen if the two parties will finally reach an agreement.

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