BY BOTLHALE KOOTHUPILE
The Botswana Premier League (BPL) board is expected to debate a number of proposals on how to ‘hasten the case hearings’ by the league’s Disciplinary Committee.
Among some of the proposals to be discussed will be a ‘format or structure of hearing cases, paying a compensation fee for DC members as well as whether losing teams should pay lawyers’ fees for hearings.’
The proposals were allegedly on the agenda during the league’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) last week, but it was ‘allegedly given back to the BPL Secretariat to restructure the proposals.’
According to a source, when the matter was presented, the league argued that while there were ‘few cases which were brought before the Disciplinary Committee (DC),’ “some were disposed off in time while some couldn’t, especially that were presented before them during the second round of the season.”
“The BPL put it forth to the AGM that when it enquired from the DC as to why there were delays in case resolutions, they highlighted two major problems,” the source explained.
“The first problem was that they sat for long hours at hearings because some clubs bring lawyers who delay the process while another was that there was no compensation for their voluntary time,” the source said.
It is said to mitigate these, the BPL proposed that ‘the prosecutor and DC members should be compensated whenever they sit for hearings.’ The league office also proposed that ‘alternatively, the losing party should compensate the sitting lawyers’ fees.
The league also allegedly proposed that ‘it will be important if the process of hearings should be reduced’ to ensure that cases before the DC could be resolved quickly.
Reached for comment, BPL chief executive officer (CEO) Thabo Ntshinogang confirmed the discussions took place but said ‘[they] were reverted to the secretariat to restructure the proposal.’
“On the matter of compensation, the truth is we proposed that there should be ‘a token of appreciation’ given to the DC members, not payment or compensation per se,” the BPL CEO explained.
“We have to appreciate that volunteerism is not easy, more especially when it comes to working professionals. They have to sacrifice the time they could be using at their own offices to do what we request of them. It is therefore only appropriate that we give them a token of appreciation,” he said.
The BPL CEO went on to add that the gesture is only appropriate as it also happens in other codes, adding that the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) also has such in place.
Ntshinogang however explained that this proposal was not adopted as the AGM wanted the league office to restructure the proposal to include the structured amounts that it envisages should be paid to the DC members at each sitting.
On the matter of a backlog of hearings due to teams bringing lawyers to disciplinary sittings, Ntshinogang said the DC wants a hearing process that can be used at the BPL.
“The DC is of the view that there has to be a format for presentation at BPL presentations so that it does not mimic court proceedings as it is currently,” he explained. “As it stands, under the current format, DC hearings are prolonged as issues are debated as they are in the courts,” said the BPL CEO.
“As for the suggestion of losing teams compensating ‘sitting lawyers’ fees,’ the matter was not discussed and it will be taken to the BPL board for debate.”
Asked whether it was allowed for the BPL teams to bring lawyers to disciplinary hearings, Ntshinogang said there was no statute barring any club or person from doing such.
“This is a grey area in our case proceedings. Teams have always brought lawyers to hearings though they have been quick to insist they are team members. It happens, but also, there is no statute barring them from bringing lawyers,” Ntshinogang explained.
While the BPL office will be hopeful the board adopts the proposals, a source said the proposals have been received with mixed feelings from the BPL AGM.
“The jury is still out on whether the BPL board will or will not adopt the proposals,” the source concluded.