Sunday, June 23, 2024

‘Debswana paying legal costs for former MD and judge’

If Blackie Marole is no longer the Managing Director of Debswana Diamond Company and Justice Dr. Key Dingake has no links with the company, why is Debswana paying legal costs for both?

That is the underlying question that Donald Gaetsaloe raises in a new set of court papers that he has introduced in a case in which Marole and Dingake are suing him for defamation. The source of the alleged defamation is an affidavit that Gaetsaloe had filed in legal proceedings he had instituted in the High Court against Mascom Botswana and six other defendants. At this time, Marole was Debswana MD and Dingake was presiding in a case in which the company was facing off with Gaetsaloe. The allegations the latter made were published in newspapers, prompting Dingake and Marole ÔÇô who had been mentioned in the affidavit, to sue Gaetsaloe for defamation.

In a new set of court papers that the court has allowed him to file, Gaetsaloe says that ever since this long legal dispute began, legal costs for Marole and Dingake have been paid by money “belonging to or emanating from Debswana Diamond Company.

“At no material time during the present litigation has either of the Plaintiffs enjoyed any legal relationship with Debswana giving rise to any lawful justification for their legal costs to be met out of Debswana’s funds,” says Gaetsaloe adding that this expenditure has neither been sanctioned by Debswana’s Board of Directors, nor is it an operational expense or any other lawful head of expenditure in the business operations of Debswana.

Gaetsaloe contends that Marole and Dingake’s conduct “is not only a reflection upon their poor character and the undeserved nature of any good reputation claimed by them, but has also been a continuation of the same problematic relationship between them.”

Gaetsaloe had sought the court’s permission to amend his amended plea by introducing two additional paragraphs. Such paragraphs are aimed at showing that Dingake had and continues to have an improper relationship with Debswana and that, contrary to what he claims, does not have an unblemished character or reputation. The court has granted such permission and Debswana’s financial involvement in the case will now become an issue.

The other issue relates to an official audit that was conducted at the Department of the Administration of Justice in 2016. The audit found that during between December 2014 and July 2016, Dingake received a housing allowance totalling approximately P200, 000.00, which he was not entitled to.

Dingake, who is the second plaintiff, had objected to the proposed amendments on two grounds. He argued that the amendments were intended to cast him and Marole in bad light and that the additions relate to events that occurred well after the defamation suit was filed and were therefore irrelevant to the case.

However, Justice Dr. Zein Kebonang disagreed, saying in his judgement that “the issue of the plaintiff’s reputation and character in a defamation case can scarcely be avoided because the plaintiff typically seeks to recover compensation for damages to his reputation.” The judge said that on score of the fact that Dingake has made his character an issue by launching the defamation action, “his good or bad character may be proven by specific instances of his conduct. The plaintiff claims that he has been defamed by the defendant’s statements that he is a corrupt judge. Because the second plaintiff intends to offer evidence of his general good character, the defendant is free to put that character into issue.” He added that in a defamatory case, allegations of unfitness to hold office are not limited to isolated incidents or past occurrences but may also extend to conduct that happens post the defamatory statements.

“Such evidence is admissible and relevant to the real issues or dispute between the parties,” Kebonang said when granting Gaetsaloe leave to amend his plea by inserting two new paragraphs.


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