Advocate Sydney Pilane, lead lawyer in a case in which the former Chairman of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), Armando Vasco Lionjanga’s appeal against corruption was upheld and sentence set aside by Lobatse High Court judge Walia says that after the High Court judgment his client wants to go back to his office.
“My client wants to go back to his office after the judgment on Thursday; he cannot wait,” said Pilane.
According to him, his client has all along been on suspension with pay and that the pay was stopped after conviction and that after the judgment, the suspension now has to be lifted and stressed that they are looking forward to it.
PPADB Public Relations and Education Manager, Ditapole Chibua Tsheboeng, when asked to comment on the issue of the possible reinstatement of Lionjanga this week, referred us to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, saying they are the right people to comment on the matter.
But attempts to get them to comment were unsuccessful as it was said that the Minister, Baledzi Gaolathe, would be an appropriate person to comment on the matter but that he was away.
Lobatse High Court judge Laikhvinder Walia on Friday allowed an appeal and set aside a conviction brought before his Court by Lionjanga on grounds that the state had failed to prove false Lionjanga’s account of events beyond reasonable doubt.
Lionjanga was convicted of corruption after the state had alleged that between 22 January, 2004 and 27 February 2004 whilst being the Chairman of PPADB and whilst he knew that his sister and nephew had a direct interest in a company, namely Eastgate Enterprises, both being directors of the company with which PPADB proposed to deal, knowingly failed to disclose the nature of such interest and participated in the proceedings of the PPADB board relating to such dealings.
Walia, in his judgment, said it was crucial in this matter to consider whether or not Lionjanga had knowingly failed to disclose the nature of his interest in Eastgate Enterprises. That it was common cause that at the very first hearing involving the company, Lionjanga and current Minister of Defence and Security, Ndelu Seretse, had declared their social interest in the company and that no further declarations of interest were made by either at the subsequent hearing involving the company.
He said that it is, therefore, implicit in the Magistrate’s findings that the failure to declare interest at every one of such meetings rendered Lionjanga guilty of offences he had been charged with. Walia said that a number of issues merit consideration in determining whether or not the Magistrate had come to a correct decision.
Further to that, he said, the state bore the burden of proving beyond reasonable doubt that Lionjanga knew or ought to have known that it was unlawful for him to fail to declare his interest in the company at every hearing where the company’s tender came up for consideration; that his Court is left wondering if the investigations against Lionjanga could have commenced at all had the investigating officer known that interest had been declared on 20 March 2003.
The charge sheet, he said, refers to non declarations of interest in January and February 2004 and that it was safe to assume that, as at the date of the charge sheet, neither the investigating officer nor the Directorate of Public Prosecutions was aware of the prior declaration and that evidence on this is found in the investigating officer Shadrack Kgomo’s statement who said that he started investigating this matter following a report made to the DCEC in 2004.
Walia said that it is also obvious from his evidence that he only had regard to the meetings in 2004 and that, for almost three years, he did precious little and only became aware of a declaration of interest having been made in 2003 when Lionjanga drew his attention.
He said that the crux of Lionjanga’s explanation is that he declared his interest in the company in 2003 and that it was not, therefore, necessary to repeat that interest at every subsequent meeting involving the company as the interest was in the company and not the tender it was involved in.
He added that this was a gratuitous act on his part in terms of the Board’s own procedures to promote transparency and that he was under no statutory obligation to declare any interest as Section 88 of the PPADB Act had no application to the circumstances of this case.
Lionjanga, the judge said, could only have been convicted if the Magistrate had found those explanations to be false beyond reasonable doubt.
Advocate Sydney Pilane, assisted by Sadique Kebonang, represented Lionjanga, whilst Ditodi Ditodi represented the state.