The Executive Chairman of PPADB (Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board) Armando Lionjanga has been convicted of corruption.
Passing his judgment Wednesday morning the Gaborone Village Chief Magistrate Lot Moroka said after listening to all the evidence brought before the court especially by the Directorate on Public prosecution he was assured that the “matrix in the case was so stable that t is extremely safe to convict.”
Lionjanga was charged for having participated in the adjudication of a tender in which his nephew Kagiso Makgekgenene was an interested party without him [Lionjanga] declaring such interests.
Magistrate Moroka agreed with the prosecution that as Lionjanga’s nephew, Kagiso Makgekgenene was an immediate member of Lionjanga’s family.
He dismissed as “absurd” the argument by the defence that Makgekgenene was not an immediate member of Lionjanga’s family, especially given that the law specifically included a concubine as a member of the immediate family.
Moroka said if the law could go as far as to cover a concubine then it is clear that it was the intent of the legislature to also include close blood relations such as nephews.
Moroka said by including a concubine as a part of the immediate family it was clear that the legislature wanted to cure the mischief of using public office to further narrow family interests.
“How can it be that a nyatsi we ranked higher than a setlogolo without putting our judicial system into disrepute?” Moroka wondered.
He said were the judiciary to say a concubine ranked higher than a blood nephew in one’s relations then Batswana would have reasons to be shocked by such a judicial interpretation.
Shooting down the defence argument that one’s nephew did not form a part of one’s immediate family, the court said in historical context as well as in sociological and cultural context “relations between uncle and nephew is too close to be ignored even if the nephew had own merits.”
“Such a relationship is sufficiently too close to raise eyebrows,” said Moroka.
That context, he said applied to Botswana’s cultural nuances and sensitivities, so much so that it could not be easily wished away.
“An uncle is a pillar of his nephew. An uncle assumes the role of a father figure to nephew, especially when sister is not married.”
As a result the Magistrate found that Makgekgenene was an immediate member of Lionjanga’s family.
He said an uncle sitting on the adjudication of a nephew’s tender as did Lionjanga on Makgekgenene’s somehow contaminated the integrity and fairness of the of the tendering process.
“An uncle sitting on nephew’s tender adjudication does not serve the intent of the legislature,” Moroka said.
That went against the natural justice that forbid a man from being a judge of his case, said the Magistrate.
On whether or not Lionjanga knew that Makgekgenene was a director and shareholder of EastGate Enterprise, the company at the heart of the dispute, the Magistrate said all evidence pointed out to the fact that the PPADB executive Chairman knew.
On the assertion by Lionjanga that he did disclose at one point, the Magistrate said the disclosure that the executive Chairman talked about related to a different tender, not the one that was as subject of the court case.
“Even the blind can see that this is not the same tender. It is a totally different tender. In fact the tenders are 11 months apart,” said Chief Magistrate Moroka.
He said the law required that the Board Members of PPADP disclosed their interests as part of every agenda meeting especially in the face of “notoriously changing directorships and shareholding as was the case with EastGate.”
“Declaring 11 months earlier can’t be valid,” said Moroka.
The Magistrate also scoffed at yet another assertion by Lionjanga that he merely chaired but did not participate in the meeting.
“I spent a lot of time agonising over the difference. You can’t chair a meeting and not participate in it.”
The Magistrate pointed out that as per the English oxford dictionary, “chairing a meeting meant being in charge of it.”
“I therefore conclude that the accused was party to the decision making process of the meeting and I find him guilty as charged,” said Moroka.