Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Minister lied under oath in casino licence case

The High Court has found the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse, to have lied under oath in a case in which Letsatsi Casino in Palapye wanted a decision he made reviewed.

Letsatsi tussled with the Gambling Authority (then named the Casino Control Board) over the latter’s refusal to renew its casino licence. Dissatisfied with the Authority’s decision, Letsatsi appealed to Seretse who upheld the Authority’s earlier decision. It was then that the casino operator took the matter up with the Gaborone High Court, thus compelling the minister to file an answering affidavit. The minister doesn’t come out smelling of roses in Justice Dr. Zein Kebonang’s judgement.

“When requested to produce a record of proceedings in respect of the review application, the minister stated under oath that no such record existed. The minister’s position was reflected in an affidavit filed by him on the 12th August 2016. That the record did not exist was in fact a falsehood. This is so because on the 16th August 2016, the [Gambling Authority] did produce the record of proceedings sought by the applicant,” the judgement says.

The court also poked holes in an account provided by the state’s attorney, Grenorrah Begane, to explain why Seretse filed his answering affidavit past the court-ordered deadline. When the latter happens, parties can apply for a pardon (called “condonation”) to file out of time. Begane deposed to an application for condonation, explaining why Seretse didn’t file in good time. He gives three reasons: that Seretse was “very busy” with preparations for the golden jubilee of independence celebrations, that in early October 2016 he went on an official tour of his constituency and that after the tour ended, “there was cabinet reshuffling, creation of new and renaming of ministries which also took most of the minister’s time.”

First raising the technical point about Seretse not indicating whether he authorised the condonation, the court poured water on Begane’s explanation.

“I considered this explanation to be unacceptable and misleading. It is a known fact that the independence celebrations were concluded on the 30th September 2016; that a cabinet reshuffle comes at the instance of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Botswana and not any minister, was announced a week before the 30th September 2016 and that Minister Seretse was not affected by the reshuffle as he continued heading the same ministry after the reshuffle,” says Kebonang’s judgement, adding that Seretse was aware of review application as early as August 12, 2016 when he signed his answering affidavit. “The explanation by the minister, provided four months later by his attorney, had all the hallmarks of a contention designed specifically to try and defeat what was an unexplained default.”

The effect of throwing out the condonation application was that Letsatsi’s application remained unopposed. Resultantly, the court ordered that Letsatsi’s licence be renewed.

Seretse’s actions were also badly characterised in another casino licence application (this one relating to an application by Moonlite Casino) in which the same judge said he acted “illegally and irrationally.”

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