Saturday, November 28, 2020

Khama set to probe AG, DPP competence

President Ian Khama is planning to appoint a commission of inquiry into the conduct of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Leonard Sechele and the Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme following “questionable” prosecution of two senior ministers ÔÇô a close aide to the president has confided to the Sunday Standard.

This week, the Gaborone Chief Magistrate Barnabas Nyamadzabo acquitted Minister Ndelu Seretse from a single charge of corruption. Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo is still having his day in court where he is also facing a single count of corruption.

This is the first time in Botswana’s history that two sitting ministers holding key cabinet portfolios faced concurrent corruption charges during the tenure of a single presidency sparking conspiracy theories about a plot to collapse Khama’s cabinet.

While Seretse had to resign from cabinet, Matambo has kept his position. This was after the president was convinced that there is a conspiracy to discredit his cabinet.

A source told Sunday Standard that had Matambo resigned, the plan was that Assistant Minister of Trade, Vincent Seretse, would also be charged on allegations going back to his days at Botswana Telecommunications Corporation where he was Chief Executive Officer.

“The damage and harm to the international reputation of the country has been unprecedented,” a source close to the president told Sunday Standard.

Under the law, the Director of Public Prosecutions is obliged to consult the Attorney General on cases of public interest before charging the suspects. These include high profile cases like charging cabinet ministers.

Sunday Standard can confirm that following Seretse’s acquittal, a powerful lobby of some key people closest to the President is nudging him to sack Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme.

While in the past it was impossible to sack an Attorney General because the position was protected by the Constitution, circumstances have changed since government established a separate office of the DPP.

“The person of Attorney General no longer enjoys the protection and immunity that came with that office before there was DPP. Since the establishment of DPP the Attorney General is like any other Permanent secretary. They serve at the grace and favour of the President. The protection has shifted to the DPP because it is meant to protect prosecutorial independence,” said a source close to the Presidency.

The terms of reference for the enquiry are likely to include a determination of whether or not the DPP and Attorney General acted competently when they charged both Matambo and Seretse.
Under the laws of Botswana such an enquiry can only be chaired by a judicial officer ÔÇô either a serving or retired High Court judge.

“It is worth noting that the Director of Prosecutions can be suspended pending the outcome of the enquiry.”

It would seem like the President is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the Matambo case before acting.
“If the president agrees to an enquiry it will only be after the Matambo case is over. Besides, we want a pattern to emerge we want to avoid a situation where we have multiple enquiries,” said the same source.

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