Matome jailed, Nchindo escapes

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The long meandering Nchindo case has come to an end. At least for now. There was a hush, sighs, tears and some punctuated celebrations when Regional Magistrate, Lot Moroka handed down his judgment yesterday.

 Friends and family hugged Garvas Nchindo for his half victory but did not know what to do or say to the crest-fallen Joe Matome.  In between tears, some managed to say 'Sorry' or 'hard luck', and: "We live to fight another day".

The reality is that when this case started in 2007, four men appeared before Moroka. Along the way, Jacob Sesinyi was pulled out of the case as a potential state witness. The case kingpin, Louis Nchindo, took his life.

After yesterday's sentence, Garvas Nchindo walks and Joe Matome is the only one who will endure the rough and tumble of prison life.

Moroka handed down an effective three years imprisonment to Joe Matome. Garvas Nchindo, although he still has the spectre of conviction around his neck, got two years imprisonment, both wholly suspended.

"If any accused deserves mercy it is Garvas Nchindo. While he played a role in the commission of the offence, there is no doubt that he was sucked into the offences by accident of birth to the late Louis Goodwill Nchindo.

"I am certain that society does not demand a custodial sentence under these circumstances. I sentence Garvas Nchindo to two years imprisonment wholly suspended for a period of three years, on condition that he does not commit the same offence during the period of suspension," said Moroka. Similarly, on the count of obtaining by false pretences, an offence that attracts a penalty of two years, the magistrate sentenced him to two years imprisonment which he wholly suspended on condition that he does not commit the same offence in three years.

In passing sentence, Magistrate Moroka said he took into consideration that Nchindo junior is a first offender and his moral blameworthiness is minimal.

Joe Matome, who has been convicted on five counts, ran out of luck, unable to escape a custodial sentence. On the two charges of giving false information to a person employed in the public service - these charges are largely believed to be the nub of the case - Matome was slapped with two years imprisonment. The sentences on both counts run concurrently.

Ordinarily the offence carries a three-year prison term but Matome got away with two thirds of the prescribed maximum. In his judgement, Moroka said Matome, together with the late Louis Nchindo threw the corporate governance book through the window, to the detriment of the public. He reasoned that the governance of Debswana is a matter of concern to Batswana given the centrality of the company to the economic well-being of the country.

"The accused was engaged in an elaborate plan to defraud not only Debswana of prized possessions but also contributed to the defrauding of the government of Botswana of precious and highly scarce land".  It seems the temptation to make a political statement was too high to pass up on the administrative rot that seemingly was going on at Debswana during the reign of Nchindo.

"Evidence points a picture of a grave lapse of corporate governance and ethical standards while the late Nchindo was at the helm. The question is: Where was the Board of Directors," Moroka asked. Moroka stressed that he convicted Matome on the first two counts because his moral blameworthiness was so high that even on account of his first offender status and other personal circumstances, justice will only be served if he imposes a custodial sentence.

On Counts Four and Five - forgery and obtaining by false pretences - Matome was given two years imprisonment on each wholly suspended on condition that he does not commit a similar offence in three years.

On Count Seven - conspiracy to prevent lawful disposal of property for its fair value - Matome was slapped with one year's imprisonment.

When sentencing him the magistrate observed that his literal rigging of the tendering process in favour of the late L.G Nchindo illustrates unethical governance at its worst.

"His moral blameworthiness is on this count immeasurable". The one year imprisonment that he was given on Count Seven runs consecutively with the two years handed down in Counts One and Two, effectively meaning that Matome will do a cumulative three years in prison.

TDC and Golconda Holdings was charged with two offences of receiving unlawfully obtained property and cheating of the Public Revenue Office. The former offence attracts a maximum imprisonment of 14 years while the latter can fetch up to ten years imprisonment and a fine not exceeding half a million Pula. Since Golconda is a body corporate, the Magistrate said it cannot receive custodial sentence and as a consequence the company was fined P20,000 payable within seven days and on Count 10, the company was fined P3,000 also to be pain in seven days.

TDC, the company that owns the major plot at plot 55720 in Block 10 in Gaborone, was convicted of one count of forgery. The magistrate found that the company was used as an instrument of crime in "a very big way". It was fined P 20,000 payable within seven days.

Perhaps the biggest loss other than the loss of liberty and an indignant conviction is the loss of the two properties to the state. Magistrate Moroka viewed with the application of the state that plot 55720, which he observed had been unlawfully obtained, should revert to the state. This plot is said to be the big trophy worthy well over P100 million. In fact, in court it was suggested that an investment of P75 million had been made on the plot.

Equally, house number 3084, which was bought from Debswana in a tender, will be forfeited to Debswana as the court found that the house was irregularly obtained.

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