Sunday, October 25, 2020

‘Uniformed on-duty police officers aided and abetted robbery’

The government has been hauled before the High Court to answer charges that, through two of its employees, it is alleged to have played no small role in what to all intents and purposes has been characterised as literal daylight robbery of a butchery at the White City shopping complex in Gaborone. The aggrieved party adjudges that a hefty six-figure sum will be adequate recompense for both the property lost and the commercial inconvenience suffered.

At the centre of this matter are two police officers stationed at the Urban Police Station which is about a kilometre or so from the White City shopping complex. In December last year, Obusitswe Masena reported Gianinchi Holdings at the police station for failure to pay an outstanding debt of P4418. At this stage in the case, details of what transpired at the station have not come out but the outcome was that two officers accompanied Masena to a butchery owned by Gianinchi Holdings. The officers are said to have “unlawfully assisted” Masena to “unlawfully take meat and a measuring scale” from the butchery. The meat is said to have weighed 5625 kilogrammes and was being sold at an average price of P40 per kilogramme. Its total value would have been P225 000. Finding itself meatless, the butchery “was forced to close shop as it had no money to buy cattle for slaughter and farmers refused to supply it on credit as it owed them for the carcass unlawfully taken from it.”

Gianinchi’s support of its claim that the officers assisted this apparent robbery (“the police officers were not bystanders”) is that they were “dressed in full uniform and gave protection” to Masena when he took the meat and the scale “hence assisting him to take the meat by ensuring that he was under full protection of the police and there was nothing to stop him from doing so.” The company says that what the two officers ought to have done was stop Masena from seizing its property. Not having done that it holds the officers liable for the loss of property which also resulted in loss of revenue.

“The police had no lawful authority to protect and assist [Masina] to take meat from [Gianinchi’s] premises and their failure to stop [Masina] from unlawfully and wrongfully taking the meat from the butchery was willful, negligent and reckless,” Gianinchi’s court papers read.

The company says that it generated about P4000 per day and P120 000 a month, incurred P80 000 in expenses and would thus have suffered loss-of-profit damages amounting to P40 000 per month beginning December 19 last year. It adds that it continues to lose profit and shall incur a P40 000 a month loss until it is back in business. To add to its woes, the company “has made serious attempts to mitigate its losses by getting supply of cattle on credit from farmers and getting financing from financial institutions but to no avail.”

The company’s claim for damages is in two separate forms. In terms of the first, it wants damages in the order of P225 000 for the saleable value of the meat; P5000 for the scale; 10 percent interest per year from the date of judgement to the date of final payment; and costs of the suit. In the second, it wants P200 000 as damages for loss of profit from December 19, 2015 to May 19, 2016; P40 000 for loss of profit from the end of May, 2016 to when the company will be put back to business; 10 percent interest per year from the date of judgement to the date of final payment; and costs of suit.  

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