Friday, October 23, 2020

Parliament on trial in IAS legal challenge

The High Court will decide soon whether Parliament Portfolio Committee on Education and Skills Development broke the law by demanding files and log books of students who had enrolled with the International Aviation Solutions (IAS).

This follows a decision by chairman of the committee Wynter Mmolotsi to instruct Sergeant at Arms, and any officer of the Botswana Police Services serving duty at Parliamentary Precinct to inform the managing director of AIS Teezzarh Seduke to submit “students log books for those students who were enrolled at the time the school closed, students files, for those students who were enrolled at the time the school closed.”

The school has since been placed under judicial management.

While the committee insists that it is empowered by statute to be furnished with the documents in question, Seduke argues that its decision amounts to infringing upon the school’s constitutional rights.

He accused its members of having become law “unto themselves and abuse the Applicants into producing documents when they have a lawful right to hold on to them pending payment or resolution of a dispute between the 1st applicant and the Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Tertiary, Research, Science and Technology.”

Seduke has since approached the High Court seeking among others an interdict against the Committee from being furnished with the documents in question.

In his affidavit filed with the High Court, he argues that when he appeared before the committee on 15 September, he was not given sufficient material to know why he was required to give evidence.

“I did not know who the complaint was or what prompted the hearing. I was given an unreasonably short period of time to prepare for such a complex matter involving lots of money and important issues. The committee ignored this submission and prayer and persisted that the hearing should proceed,” said.

According to Seduke, IAS has legal rights against the documents which he was demanded to produce and that it would defeat the ends of justice for him to be compelled to produce the documents.

“The committee ignored this submission and prayer and persisted that I should produce the documents. I had a right not to answer and comply with the demands for documents and questions because same would have a tendency to expose applicants to pains, penalty or punishment or forfeiture or to a criminal charge or to degrade the character of the applicants,” he said.

He said with the assistance of his attorney he attempted to raise objections to the harsh and violent manner at which the committee was dealing with him.

“But this was not entertained to the extent that the chairman of the 1st respondent immediately instructed the sergeant at arms to escort my attorney out of the building. I was unlawfully deprived of my constitutional right to legal representation or at the least, my right to obtain sound legal advice,” he said.

Seduke said immediately after his attorney was chased out of the room, it became clear that the committee members were both prosecutors and judges in their own cause.

“They made very pointed remarks that they are not convening the meeting to consider any other issues, all they want is for me to surrender the files and log books failing which I will be imprisoned,” he said.

“Following placement of the school under judicial management the judicial manager initiated process to recover monies which were owing to the school by its debtors. One such debtor is the ministry against which a statutory notice of intention to sue was issued on 25 September 2019 claiming payment in the sum of P18 770 000.00,” he said.

Seduke said the institution ended up being placed under judicial care due to a number of reasons among them the Ministry paying invoices very late thus causing cash flow and business disruptions at the school.

He also said another contributing factor was the ministry’s decision to start probing into the school’s registration and accreditation and caused confusion regarding whether the school should be regulated by the Civil Authority of Botswana or Botswana Qualifications Authority.

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