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BDP councillors secure another legal victory

LEBOGANG MOSIKARE
Slumber Tsogwane PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
FRANCISTOWN: For now, the idiom ‘so near and yet so far’ sums up the legal wrangle between Sowa Town Council (STC) and some past immediate Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) nominated councillors.

The ex-councillors’ battle with STC is over mileage and subsistence allowances that the former claim the latter owes them.

This week’s legal victory is the second that the applicants, Botho Ntirang and Pearl Goitseone Lekau, secured over STC following another one last year. The STC is made up of nine councillors out of whom only one (who was voted during the 2019 general elections) is from the Nata-Gweta constituency where STC is located.

For a long time, the opposition has decried that the STC (and other municipalities in Botswana) are used by the BDP for political patronage when selecting nominated councillors.

Some of these BDP foot soldiers, the party’s detractors add, had lost in the ruling party’s primary elections and were rewarded in order to shore up the party’s coffers. Following the latest victory by Ntirang and Lekau, some legal experts are of the view that the opposition may end up having the last laugh. While it is a first that some BDP nominated councillors at STC instituted legal action against it (STC) over the said allowances, the experts add that it now seems that the party’s ‘selective nomination policy’ is boomeranging indirectly against the BDP.

But the BDP has in the past at a different forum, denied that it used political patronage to select its activists as nominated councillors. It had said that all laid down procedures and processes were followed before anyone could be selected as a nominated councillor. 

Following their nomination after the 2014 general elections, most of the civic leaders at STC resided outside Sowa Township Authority (STA). Some of them stayed hundreds of kilometres away from the salt mining town.

In the case of Ntirang, his primary residence according to

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Court documents, is Tonota which is situated in the Tonota constituency while Lekau resides in the Francistown East constituency. The councillors incurred transport and other related expenses whenever they travelled to Sowa Town for official council business. The councillors were also not provided with official accommodation during their stay in Sowa Town-a situation which forced most of them to return to their primary residences everyday following the completion of council business.

They then returned the next day if the council’s business was scheduled for consecutive days.

This compounded the applicants financial stress since STC was not providing them with an allowance for transport and other related expenses-a matter which forced Ntirang and Lekau to approach the High Court in Francistown in a bid to recoup such funds.

This week, Justice Lot Moroka read only the operative part of his judgement, saying: “The respondents (STC) points cannot be sustained. The application for discovery is granted.”

In law, discovery is a category of procedural devices employed by a party to a civil or criminal action, prior to trial, to require the adverse party to disclose information that is essential for the preparation of the requesting party’s case and that the other party alone knows or possesses.

The applicants through their attorney Gontse Simon, want the court to rule that STC should provide them with commitment measure books on mileage and subsistence allowances.

When the issue of allowances started in 2018, the then Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, threatened to dissolve STC after the councillors had also threatened to paralyse its business.

Venson-Moitoi contemplated dissolving STC after the eight councillors stopped attending official council business when STC did not meet their transport demands.



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