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Lies, deceit, double-cross as BMC P40m saga deepens

MPHO MOKWAPE MBONGENI MGUNI
The BMC is facing seizure of its assets over a P40m debt
Former Parliament speaker, Patrick Balopi alleges his namesake, the Agriculture Minister, Patrick Ralotsia duped him into releasing some of the assets legally seized from the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) due to a P40 million debt, while the two were holding talks on an out-of-court settlement.

The explosive allegations are contained in Balopi’s submissions to the High Court made on Wednesday. Balopi, also a former Cabinet minister, alleges that the Agriculture minister made good faith representations, saying the matter between Balopi’s company, Walgreen Investments and the BMC should be resolved amicably and without resort to courts.

Deputy sheriffs recently seized perishable and movable assets from the BMC in Lobatse, also freezing the parastatal’s main account, due to the P40 million debt owed to Walgreen for outstanding feedlot services. Balopi’s attorney, Tebogo Tladi on Wednesday filed papers before court opposing the BMC recent award of a stay of execution, in the matter in which the assets were seized from the parastatal’s Lobatse headquarters.

In his affidavit, Balopi says Ralotsia called him for a meeting last Friday (March 15) where he was ultimately offered P2.5 million as a good faith instalment to drop the case.

However, Balopi says at the same time, the BMC, was steaming ahead with an ex-parte application for a stay of execution, which was ultimately successful before Justice Christopher Gabanagae. An ex parte motion or application is one in which the other party is not notified in advance because of extreme urgency.

Balopi says his lawyers had told Ralotsia that they were aware that BMC intended to file an ex-parte application, but the Minister had said he was intervening to stop it.

“The permanent secretary called the Ministry’s legal counsel, Thamsanqa Silitshena who was at the time in a meeting at the offices of Bookbinder Business Law for the purpose of instructing those attorneys to institute proceedings, in order to instruct him to stop.

“Minutes later, Silitshena entered the minister’s office and asked to see the Minister and the permanent secretary privately. “When the three emerged from closed doors, we were assured by the Minister that the position had not changed (that the ex-parte application would be dropped) and as sign of the Ministry’s seriousness, Walgreen would receive payment in the amount of P2.5 million on March 15.

“This promise was not kept because as it would appear, the Minister was not being honest,” states Balopi .

He says so convinced was he of government’s good faith, that he instructed the Deputy Sheriff to return some of the property that had been removed from the BMC.

Balopi says the BMC was either defying the ministry’s instructions or conspiring with the ministry to deceive him, particularly as the BMC knew that he was “locked in a meeting with the Ministry to

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resolve the issues”.

“In the event that the ministry under the authority of the minister and permanent secretary did not instruct Dr Boitumelo Mogome-Maseko (BMC CEO) to stop the application for stay as agreed at the meeting and the minister knew that the application was proceeding after the meeting with their lawyer in private, then the minister himself acted embarrassingly dishonestly,” Balopi said.

“I have personally served as Cabinet minister before and I know that in terms of the BMC Act, the minister has the power to give the BMC directions on matters appearing to him to concern the public interest. “In terms of that provision, as I understand it, the BMC is then legally obliged to give effect to such directions.

“This is why I agreed to have a meeting with the minister and this is why I agreed to instruct the deputy sheriff to cease execution on the strength of the minister promise that he will instruct the BMC not to proceed with the stay application and to cease all other litigation pending full and final settlement.”

Balopi says he had instructed Walgreen’s attorneys to serve Ralotsia in the case against Justice Gabanagae’s order, in order to give the minister the opportunity to answer the accusations against him.

“The minister was not being honest, and after the provisional order was obtained in secrecy in a serious breach of the minister’s integrity and honesty, he has done nothing to explain his behaviour to vindicate himself,” the former Speaker says, stressing that indeed BMC acted in bad faith.Meanwhile, Balopi and his attorneys have accused the BMC of forging a board of directors’ resolution empowering the CEO to represent the parastatal in the legal matter.  Balopi and his counsel argue that the BMC lied about the board resolution as there was no board in place at the time that the resolution is alleged to have been made.

The BMC is currently looking for six members after it was dissolved recently.

The BMC’s lawyers, Bookbinder Business Law have said a standing order empowering any CEO of the parastatal to stand legally was made back in 2011.

However, Balopi says the person cited by the BMC as having signed the resolution in 2011 was not on the board by that time.

Balopi and his lawyers have threatened to pursue criminal charges against the BMC’s CEO and legal counsel if it is proven that the board resolution was forged. The case is set to continue next month.



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