FRANCISTOWN: The embattled chief executive officer (CEO) of Botswana Chamber of Mines (BCM) Charles Siwawa and his organisation, face more legal battles, as the organisation go deeper into financial crises.
In his latest legal problem, the attorney representing nine lecturers under the employ of BCM at the Francistown College of Technical and Vocational Education (FCTVE) want Siwawa and David Kgoboko, the chairperson of BCM’s Board of Directors, imprisoned for being in contempt of court. BCM, Siwawa and Kgoboko are listed as the first, second and third respondents respectively.
The move to imprison Siwawa and Kgoboko, who is the general manager of Morupule Coal Mine, follows a court order that was issued by the High Court here on August 13 directing BCM to pay close to P2 million to the lecturers.
According to the applicants’ founding affidavit that was filed before Justice Phadi Solomon, the nine lecturers are employees of BCM and are employed under varying fixed term contracts.
“On August 13 2018, this court granted an order by consent whose terms were that the first respondent should pay our salaries forthwith. To date, BCM has not paid us the salary arrears and is currently in contempt of this court’s order.
“I wish to further highlight that the above order was granted by consent of both parties. BCM, through Siwawa has however, chosen to rather take a casual approach to the matter by simply stating that there is no money,” said the applicants in their founding affidavit.
Part of the lecturers’ basis of the application says that court orders are meant to be respected and obeyed. “We are further advised that the integrity of the court order is something that every person who has to comply with same has to take seriously and just do that-comply with it. We are further advised that the financial inconveniences or difficulties are not an excuse, particularly where there is a clear court order regarding performance.
“As things stand, we are holding on to a court order that is being rendered an empty shell by the respondents through their non-compliance. This is contrary to the spirit and intention of the law,” state the lecturers. When the applicants applied for the matter to be heard on urgency, which the court later granted, they said that eight months passed without receiving their salaries and they continued to suffer great inconvenience and incur more and more expenses.
“As things stand, we are unable to honour basic monthly payments like stop orders, rentals, medical aid payments, school fees and other expenses. Even buying food and toiletries
On August 13, Justice Solomon issued an order compelling the respondents to pay the applicants the total sum of P1, 828, 704,69 being salary arrears from December 2017 to July 2018 immediately.
“This order shall also be effective for the month of August and other preceding months the applicants would have rendered their services,” Solomon ruled. After the respondents failed to obey the August 13 order that was issued by Solomon, the applicants through their attorney Mbiganyi Mhizha filed an urgent draft order on urgency on August 21 to force the respondents to honour their part of the bargain.
The draft order partly reads: “…That the second and third respondents be imprisoned until such time that they have purged the contempt of court by making full payment of the amounts in the court order of August 13, 2018.
“The deputy sheriff of this court is hereby authorised with the assistance of the Botswana police to arrest Siwawa and Kgoboko pursuant to the above paragraph. The respondents shall pay the costs of this application on attorney and client scale”.
However, the respondents got a temporary reprieve after their attorneys, Mmohe Attorneys, pleaded with the court on Wednesday to grant them time to respond to the applicants’ draft order. Justice Solomon acceded to the plea of the respondents and postponed the matter to August 29 to enable them to file their response.
The matter will be heard on September 3. BCM problems are not new. In January this year, the organisation abruptly terminated the scholarships of more than 100 students it had sponsored to study various courses at FCTVE due to lack of funds.
Some of the students were left with a few months to complete their studies but their future now looks bleak. Some of the students are even contemplating to take legal action against BCM to force it to honour its contractual obligations.
Responding to Mmegi at the time, Siwawa’s response was, “Both the students and lecturers know how we are trying to solve the problem. Solving the problem through the media will not help anyone involved in this issue”.