Saturday, July 11, 2020

Senior GCC official usurped minister’s powers to favour elite nightclub

Against what the Liquor Act states in explicit terms, a notorious senior political figure at the Gaborone City Council is said to have given permission to an elite nightclub at the iTowers in the new CBD permission to operate outside normal trading hours.

What was unlawful about this action is that the Act grants authority to only one person (the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry) but as it happens, the Minister was not even informed. The GCC official doesn’t even have the mandate to deal with businesspeople who seek permission to operate outside normal trading hours.

At the centre of this controversy is an official letter that was authored by the GCC official during the presidency of Ian Khama when places that sell alcohol closed early. The existence of this letter ÔÇô which is now part of an investigation ÔÇô became known during a joint operation by GCC bye-law enforcement officials and police officers. Such operations are periodically carried out, especially during month-end weekends and holidays when there would be inclination by proprietors to unlawfully extend hours of operation. When this team called at iTowers, the nightclub was still in full swing and whereas, any other proprietor would have been apologetic, that was not the case here. When the officials demanded that the nightclub shut down, the manager produced a letter from Town Hall authorising the nightclub to operate outside normal trading hours for nightclubs.

Dumbfounded, the officials took the matter to the Liquor Control Authority, a committee made up of both GCC employees and members of the community, which deals with issues relating to alcohol. The LCA was itself unaware that the nightclub had been so authorised and referred the matter to the Town Clerk with the expectation that he would, in turn, refer it to the Minister because he (Town Clerk) doesn’t have any authority over politicians. That never happened and the nightclub continued to operate outside trading hours.

A GCC source says that what happened was stark violation of the Liquor Act. On taking over in April last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi relaxed liquor-trade regulations and so the letter in question would not be of use now. However, there was a time when it enabled an iTowers nightclub to do business that other nightclubs couldn’t do.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.