Sunday, October 1, 2023

Justice Gaongalelwe approaches the Court to clear his name

A case in which Court of Appeal Judge Stephen Gaongalelwe is challenging the Final Audit Report which exposed him as amongst the judges who had wrongly received  housing allowance while occupying government institutional house has been postponed to 3rd August for argument.

Gaongalelwe was listed on the report for owing government 63 000 Pula (P63 141.00) housing allowance.

The matter was postponed to allow for Gaongalelwe to file his replying affidavit. Gaborone High Court Judge, Michael Mothobi slapped the judge with cost for failure to submit on time his replying affidavit.

Her lawyer Karen Phiri who appeared on behalf of substantive attorney John Carr-Hartley apologized for late submission but justice Mothobi did not take kindly to her plea and ordered for cost in favour of the state and further ordered for the parties to hold a pre-trial conference on the 18 April as constituted by Order 42 rule 2 of the High court. The parties will meet to resolve pending issues relating to the case.

According to Justice Gaongalwe’s founding affidavit, he denied owing government any money and accused the internal Auditor Maria Mokgwathi of being unfair for not listening to an  advice from the Registrar and Master of the High Court Michael Motlhabi to remove him from the list of judges who owe government housing allowances.   

He accused the auditor of grossly unreasonable in making the findings of the report because he said he was staying in Marang Hotel in Francistown and not government institutional house saying it is a matter beyond argument that a hotel room cannot be equated to nor be a substitute for a family house.

Judge Gaongalelwe (Applicant) was put on the list of judges who owes government for not paying back housing allowance which was wrongly given to him while on transfer at Francistown for the period of February 2004 to March 2005.  

But on her replying affidavit, before court an Auditor from Ministry of Finance acting on behalf of Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security Maria Mokgwathi said both the Registrar and Justice Gaongalelwe were wrong in thinking that the applicant was entitled to continue receiving a housing allowance while he was at the same time staying in the  hotel at Government expense.

‘’I still stand by my report that Justice Gaongalelwe received P63 141.00 as a housing allowance for which he was not eligible,” said Mokgwathi

Mokgwathi said she was expecting the Registrar to take action against Gaongalelwe concerning the report.

“I also find it to be improper for the Registrar to avail to the applicant correspondence between Government offices, some of which are stamped ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ to use on his favour,” said Mokgwathi.

Mokgwathi reveals a scathing attack on the Registrar and CoA Judge stating that after completing her investigations and preparing the report she was surprised to be called to Motlhabi’s office and advised that Gaongalewe intends to pay the money back.

‘’It is a cause for concern that the Registrar and Master of High Court Michael Motlhabi who is the accounting officer for Administration of Justice is playing a double standard. While he agreed with the applicant that it was not wrong for him to earn housing allowance while at the same time staying in a hotel at government expense, recently he acted differently in a similar circumstance and instructed Justice Gaongalelwe who was staying in Avani Hotel upon his transfer to Gaborone to pay back the housing allowance he had used while at the same time occupying the Hotel at Government expense,” Mokgwathi.

The Final Audit Report came into picture after some four judges Key Dingake, Mercy Gaarekwe, Rainer Busang and Letsididi were accused of receiving housing allowance they were not entitled to use.

The case is scheduled for 3rd August for argument.


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