Former president Ian Khama, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general Mpho Balopi and former party legal advisor Parks Tafa are all expected to give evidence before court in relation to the sacking of the BDP executive secretary, Thabo Masalila during their reign.
The trio, who are accused by Masalila of dismissing him unfairly, has been reportedly failing to appear before court as expected and now the court has taken a stand on their failure to honour court proceedings. The case has been postponed to November 5.
The matter that has been dragging since 2013 came before Industrial Court Judge Tebogo Maruping.
On Wednesday Maruping made it clear to the parties that the case had taken long and it needs to be finalised.
“This matter has dragged for a long time. I understand that Collins Newman and Company has not been practising ,but the law firm could have notified its witnesses that the case is continuing.
I agree with what counsel Mboki Chilisa is saying that it seems the witnesses are not taking the issue seriously. Go and inform your witnesses about the importance of giving evidence on this case. The costs of today will be paid by the respondents,” Justice Maruping said.
An attorney from Collins Newman, Mutande Kaluzi pleaded with the court to postpone the matter so that his witnesses could go and testify.
“Balopi and others are held up that is why they could not come to court. We only learnt yesterday (Tuesday) that the matter is continuing. We did not have enough time to prepare for it because of issues our law firm has been facing,” Kaluzi said.
Masalila’s attorney Chilisa retorted: “I do not agree with what my learned friend is saying. Balopi was yesterday (Tuesday) addressing a press conference in Gaborone. I don’t think they are taking the issue seriously.
This case is taking long and in May they did not appear before court. They must pay the costs of today because they are the ones dragging the matter.”
The relationship between Masalila and BDP became sour in March 2013 after Masalila’s wife, daughter and cousin were involved in an accident while driving the employer’s car.
As part of the employment benefits, the Masalila was availed a car to be used in BDP related matters and his private use.
His wife sustained serious injuries of a fracture and dislocation of the right knee, hip, pelvis, and three vertebrae in the lower back and left shoulder while their then one-year-old child sustained minor abrasions.
On March 12, 2013 the BDP secretary general, Balopi suspended Masalila from work pending investigations and he was asked to show cause why his contract of employment should not be terminated.
He was accused of not giving a true account of the circumstances of the road accident and the unauthorised use of the BDP car at the time in issue.
The BDP also accused Masalila of forwarding a booklet containing fraudulent, or unauthorised, or substantive variations or amendments or changes on BDP primary election regulations and party constitution.
In its defence, the BDP said Masalila’s contract was terminated by former president Khama acting in his capacity as party president and therefore the applicant’s cause of action in these proceedings ought to fail against the decisions and/or actions taken by the president because of the provisions of Section 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana which bar a sitting president from prosecution.
They argued that the proceedings are incompetent and the applicant is non-suited whilst the president holds office. The BDP also said the applicant was the only one authorised driver of the vehicle in question and therefore he was not at liberty, empowered to extend the private use of the said vehicle to his spouse or relatives.
On the issue of tempering with party constitution and party primary elections regulations, the party said the president found Masalila’s answers inadequate and warranted the termination of employment on the ground that the relationship of trust and confidence with the applicant had broken down irretrievably, by payment of one month’s of basic salary.
The BDP maintains that the termination of employment was therefore lawful.