Regional Magistrate Barnabas Nyamadzabo heavily relied on the testimony of two high ranking officers in the Botswana Police Service, Commissioner Thebeyame Tsimako and Air Support Services Commander Tapudzani Pester Gabolokwe, when he discharged and acquitted Minister of Defense, Justice and Security Ramadeluka Seretse on corruption charges last week.
In his judgment, Nyamadzabo found that Tsimako and Gabolokwe’s testimonies completely exonerated Seretse from any wrong doing and nullified the prosecution’s corruption charges.
“He neither sat on the tender committee nor influenced their decision to award the tender to RFT Botswana,” said Nyamadzabo.
The state had called Tsimako and Gabolokwe as their first witnesses, in a bid to prove that Seretse had failed to declare his interest in RFT Botswana when the company proposed to deal with the Botswana police, who fall under his supervision.
In his testimony, Tsimako revealed that in 2007, the BPS made a decision to introduce the air support branch. The project, said Tsimako, was budgeted at P130 million, which would include the purchase of aircrafts, ground aviation equipment and training. When Seretse became Minister of Defense in 2008, Tsimako briefed him about police operations and informed him about the new project.
On cross examination, Tsimako told the court that Seretse did not need to be specifically told about the ground aviation equipment tender as it was already in the public domain, having been read out in the national budget.
After the aircrafts were purchased, the BPS then floated a tender for the procurement of ground aviation equipment. Tsimako indicated that he did not personally deal with the purchase of police equipment, and as such would not know who had tendered and for what.
He also said it was not necessary to brief Seretse about the specifics of procurement at the Botswana police, as ministers have nothing to do with daily operations and mundane matters like procurement. He also said the Botswana police, and not cabinet, was the procuring entity and that the Police Commissioner was the accounting officer.
He maintained that companies are awarded tenders on the basis of their competencies, and that he never ever discussed the purchase of ground aviation equipment with Seretse.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Tapudzani Gabolokwe is the Commander of the Air Support Services. He was also the Project Manager who oversaw the setting up of the air support unit from conception through to completion. Together with other officers who were seconded from the Botswana Defense Force, Bolokwe was responsible for training and recruitment, as well as procurement of all the equipment necessary for setting up the unit.
He told the court that after the tender for the supply of ground aviation equipment was circulated, it emerged that only two companies, RFT Botswana and a South African company, had tendered for the job. The South African company was later disqualified after failing to submit their trading license and tax clearance certificates.
The police tender committee then recommended RFT Botswana, who was eventually awarded the tender by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board.
On cross examination, Gabolokwe told the court that they stuck by the book when they awarded the tender to RFT Botswana.
“There was absolute compliance and absolutely no corruption on this matter,” he said.
He also said they do not refer any matter to cabinet, such that they would not know if cabinet ever dealt with the RFT Botswana tender. In his ruling, Nyamadzabo found that Tsimako and Gabolokwe’s evidence made it very difficult for the charges laid against Seretse to stick.
“As per the two witnesses’ testimony, Seretse was never an employee of the Botswana police and never sat on the tender committee. The fact that he headed a ministry responsible for the police should not be construed to mean that he was a police officer,” said Nyamadzabo.
When opposing Seretse’s application for an acquittal, the prosecution argued that they should be allowed to call more witnesses to court as only the two police bosses had testified. But Nyamadzabo refused, saying “it is not the number of prosecution witnesses that counts, but the nature and quality of the testimony they give”.
He said the prosecution cannot sustain the charges, and decided that Seretse must be discharged and acquitted.