Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Legal Aid boss caught up in visa scandal

Legal Aid Botswana Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Brits is fingered in work permits scandal.

Brits, a South African, is said to have hired one Emily Ruhukwa – a Zimbabwean national – to a position of Chief legal Aid Counsel when Ruhukwa did not qualify for the position. At the time of the vacancy Ruhukwa did not have work and resident permits.

The CEO seems to be a man associated with trouble. In 1999, as the director of the ‘troubled’ Legal Aid Board in South Africa, he resigned in exchange for the board’s unconditional withdrawal of disciplinary charges of negligent and insufficient management brought against him.

The board in which he was a director in South Africa also was thrown into controversy following allegations that its computers were used to download pornographic material – costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of Rands.

While he was the captain of Legal Aid Board in South Africa, Brits is said to have admitted that he had used his official computer at various occasions to visit pornographic websites. He received a written warning. This was reported by South African media.

Sunday Standard intercepted a letter written by legal Aid staff to the CEO questioning the appointment of Ruhukwa. In the letter the staff finds it inappropriate for the CEO to have appointed Ruhukwa as Chief Legal Aid Counsel. The staff says it comes as a surprise that Brits handpicked a Zimbabwean national when the position can be filled with ease by many citizens some of which are within Legal Aid Botswana.

In the initial advertisement of the position it contained a requirement for a candidate to be fluent in both written and spoken English and Setswana. The staff say Brits removed Setswana in the latest advertisement tailoring it to accommodate Ruhukwa.

This is considered a very important requirement since Legal Aid Botswana clientele consists largely of illiterate people who cannot communicate well in English and therefore need somebody with a good grasp of Setswana.

“The current advertisement requires only English that by itself aptly raises lot of questions. The assumptions are that all attorneys are well versed in English; this therefore begs the question why Setswana was left out as a requirement, when previously it was included,” reads the letter.

The staff further cried that under the main purpose of the job and duties there is a provision that the prospective employee will manage the mediation unit an area which Ruhukwa is not accredited on. Brits is said to have been advised by Human Resource Management on the accreditation but he ignored it.

Brits cared less to respond to staff grievances until just recently after Sunday Standard sent him a questionnaire on the matter.

In his response to this publication’s questions Brits said while the individual skills can be found amongst citizens of Botswana the required combination of skills is rare. Brits did not go into details to explain how rare the required combination of skills was.

Brits admit that Ruhukwa was hired without work and resident permit; he says this was so because of the temporary inability on the part of the Department of Immigration and citizenship to print permits.

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