After succumbing to heavy defeats in high profile cases last year, the State has started the year on a positive note after it was granted permission to continue with the retention of businessman Bakang Seretse’s assets while awaiting the matter to be finalised at the Court of Appeal (CoA).
On Friday, the Lobatse High Court Judge Gaopalelwe Ketlogetswe ruled in favour of the State in a matter in it wanted to stay the court order in favour of Seretse and his companies, which forced government to release Seretse’s P82 million.
The State was seeking redemption after going on a losing streak of high profile cases in 2020.
On the other hand, Ketlogetswe dismissed Seretse’s contempt of court application against the State.
The judge ruled that this was an appropriate case where an order staying the execution of the court order of November 4, 2020 pending finalisation of the State’s appeal at the CoA.
Ketlogetswe stated that the aspect of stay of execution was mainly about whether there is irreparable harm to be suffered if granted or not.
“The properties sought to be restored to the applicants are a subject of a restraint order whose validity is now being questioned by the applicants,” said Ketlogetswe.
He said in his view, the PICA Act provides for a continued effectiveness of a restraint order even if an appeal is noted in respect thereof.
Justice Ketlogetswe had earlier in his judgement indicated that when he made an order compelling the State to release Seretse’s money on November 4, 2020, it was on the basis that the restraint order under which the government was keeping the properties had lapsed after the
Justice Godfrey Radijeng had granted the restraint order on December 13, 2017 and the State filed its application for forfeiture on January1 8, 2018 when the 28 days period had lapsed.
Ketlogetswe said he was unaware that there was another judgement by Justice Radijeng extending the effectiveness of the restraint order as it was never brought to his attention by the parties at the hearing of the main application.
“My view is that the issue now being beyond the reach of this court at this stage of the proceedings, can only be resolved by the CoA,” he added.
The judge agreed with the State that it could not be judged to be in willful contempt of court as they pleaded that noting an appeal automatically stayed the execution of the court order compelling them to release the seized properties.
He said it goes without saying that the State has a reasonably arguable case.
“In the result, I therefore make the following orders: the application for contempt of court against the respondents be and is dismissed. The execution of order of this court of November 4, 2020 be and is hereby stayed pending the finalisation of an appeal at the CoA in respect thereof. There is no order as to costs.”