Saturday, December 4, 2021

Lawyer’s ‘mental mishap’ cited as reason for late filing in DISS case

Justice Modiri Letsididi at the Lobatse High Court has to deal with an unusual condonation application by two men who are suing the Directorate of Intelligence Services and Security (DISS) for P18.6 million.

Having been on the receiving end of the old DISS in 2012, Thulaganyo Boiditswe and Tshepo Makgalemele now allege that they were ill-treated and have launched a lawsuit against the government. Last year, Justice Jennifer Dube ruled that they took way too long to bring the lawsuit and accordingly dismissed it. The men are appealing Dube’s judgement but there is a hurdle that stands before them and the Court of Appeal. The period within which they should have launched such appeal has long elapsed. To that end, they are asking Justice Letsididi for condonation (forgiveness) to file outside the prescribed period of time. Supposing the judge rules in their favour, the men will then be able to bring the appeal proper.

The two men retain the services of Mothusi & Company Attorneys and at the beginning were represented by Mojaboswa King. In a part of the condonation application sub-headed “Reasonable Explanation for the Delay”, they state the following: “During the course of the matter, Mr. Mojaboswa King had a mental mishap and he was committed for psychiatric help. The sole owner, Mr. Lyndon Tiro Mothusi, was not aware of Mr. King’s mental health. Upon hearing about his mental health, he has now personally taken over this case.” Citing earlier judgement by now-retired Justice Singh Walia, the application says that “it would be unjust to visit the sins of the applicants’ erstwhile attorneys on the appeal.”

That assertion is being hotly contested by the state. One of the points that it makes is that the pair’s condonation application doesn’t quote the exact dates and period when King’s mental health lapsed.

“No documentary medical proof is filed in support. This explanation is completely unsatisfactory,” the state argues in its own papers.

Through their company, Kgang Tsa Rona, Boiditswe and Makgalemele were granted a P1.6 CEDA loan to open Botswana’s only franchise of Sparkling Auto Care Centre, a unique South African operation which combines car wash and valet with automotive body repair services. The company is based in Potchefstroom and its Chief Executive Officer is Cornelius Gustafson. The saga features some of the better known names in Botswana’s politics, business and Christendom. In an affidavit that he deposed to before he was fired on May 2 this year by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, former DISS Director General, Isaac Kgosi, maintained that the application for the CEDA loan was shot through with fraud. Resultantly, DIS agents pounced on the men (who were in the company of Gustafson) before the deal could be concluded. The agents arrested both men at an exclusive restaurant at Airport Junction Mall in Gaborone and locked them up at two separate police stations, interrogating them over an extended period of time. They are suing the government over the arrest, detention and interrogation which they were unlawful.

The hearing before Justice Letsididi is on November 21. If he rules in the pair’s favour, a Botswana court will, for the very time in history, hear how DISS conducted its cloak-and-mostly-dagger business over the past 10 years. That is because all other cases brought against the spy agency were settled out of court.


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