In her pursuit to instil law and order within the organisation, SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrance – Tax appears to be unstoppable including disobeying both court and ministerial orders.
The latest victim of Tax’s wrath is the head of Public Relations Unit (PRU) and a Namibian national, Leefa Penehupifo Martin who was fired from her lucrative position a fortnight ago.
She was expelled after having served 24 months of the once off and, or fixed term contract which was renewed in January 2014 and offered by Tax subsequent to her seeking the renewal.
Martin who has since left Botswana to her native Namibia could not be drawn to discuss this matter, save to confirm to The Midweek Sun that “It is true that I have been expelled from duty,” she said. Tax confirmed having relieved Martin her position saying, “Yes it is true that Martin’s contract has been terminated and I must say everything was done in accordance with the policy and rules and procedures,” said Tax.
The Midweek Sun investigation has established that the reason for Martin’s dismissal according to several charge sheets prepared by the Disciplinary Committee led by the Director of Policy, Planning and Resources Mobilisation, Dr Angelo Mondlane and endorsed by Tax, are related to alleged misconduct, use of abusive language and wilful disregard of authority. However, this is something that Martin herself denies through documents filed at the Industrial court.
Dr Tax approved the decision of the disciplinary committee to fire Martin, who was charged and found guilty in absentia. Besides, Martin had not only appealed to the chairman of SADC Council of Ministers, Kenneth Matambo, but had already applied for an interdict with the Industrial Court seeking an interim order declaring that the disciplinary hearing against her be declared unfair, unlawful and irregular.
She sought an interim order staying such hearing or any other proceedings against her arising from the alleged charges as stated in the letters written to her pending the final termination of her application in court. Further, in taking a decision to fire Martin, Dr Tax had allegedly disregarded a directive from Matambo who had allegedly ordered Martin’s disciplinary hearing be postponed until the SADC Administrative Tribunal is established. Currently SADC does not have the administrative tribunal.
Matambo allegedly recently wrote to Dr Tax subsequent to receiving Martin’s letter (s) of grievance asking her to respond to issues raised. By then former Private Secretary to Matambo, Elias Moatlhodi confirmed that the minister has received a letter from Leefa Martin and that the “Minister is giving it attention and will respond accordingly soon.”
However, this week Matambo declined to comment. His acting private secretary Kelebogile Keolaotse told this publication that minister Matambo will not be making any comments. “He prefers you speak to Dr Tax”
The firing of Martin seems to open a can of worms at the headquarters of the regional economic bloc that is if the founding affidavit filed by Martin at the court is anything to go by.
Court records show that before being fired, Martin and Dr Tax had exchanged many letters, but there were times when they could not agree on what they should give to each other and further on who has to constitute the disciplinary committee.
In her affidavit filed before the court Martin stated that she has always been opposed to Dr Angelo Mondlane chairing the proceedings because he has previously exhibited a strong position against her and did call for a disciplinary hearing to be taken against her. She believed Mondlane cannot fairly adjudicate over her hearing and, or approach the matter with an open mind.
One of the letters from Dr Tax gave Martin 10 days to respond to a five-page letter from Dr Tax. The letter in question accused Martin of serious misconduct and breach of the SADC conduct, discipline and grievances Policy for writing a letter of appeal to Matambo.
The court papers show that in her response, Martin was unshakable as she stood by her appeal and requested to be given more information in order to prepare her defence.
Dr Tax refuses to provide details
Martin stated in her affidavit that she is unable to prepare for her defence in the absence of requested information and felt that the respondents simply want her to attend for the sake of formality so the matter could simply go through the motions and thereafter dismiss her.
The hearing in absentia
Dr Angelo Mondlane wrote on November 16 calling Martin to appear at SADC headquarters on November 18 on the above-mentioned charges. Martin replied through her attorneys of record apposing the move and informing Mondlane that if he decides to proceed with the hearing without having addressed the contents of her letter, they shall immediately, without prior notice launch court proceedings to interdict SADC from continuing such unlawful conduct.
The disciplinary committee under Mondlane allegedly conducted its hearing as planned in Martin’s absentia and found her guilty of use of abusive language in contravention of the SADC Administrative Rules and Procedures, wilful disregard for authority, contrary to the conduct, Discipline and Grievance Policy.
The plan to fire
Records filed in court show that Martin’s contract should have not been renewed. An authentic document which forms part of the performance report written by the former Executive Secretary, Tomaz Salmao, and is filed among the court documents indicates that, Salmao had recommended that any request or submission made by Martin under any provision, to extend or renew her contract should not be accepted.
Any short-term extension can only be entertained to allow for proper handover once a suitable candidate has been identified after due recruitment process, through the Human Resources.
Salmao was allegedly bruised by the fact that the official brochure of the August 2012 ordinary summit held in Maputo, Mozambique was delivered and circulated while it had many mistakes.
It goes on to state that such mistakes annoyed some of the heads of state, and in the course of the closed session of the summit one of the heads of state raised the issue of the brochure and indicated how offended his country was by the grave errors and inaccuracies contained in it. It is further stated that the heads of state recommended that the officers responsible for such this should resign immediately because what happened was unacceptable.
Dr Tax offers the contract
Leefa Martin’s contract was renewed through a letter written by Dr Tax on December 2013 informing her that the management has accepted her request and approved a once off contract renewal for a period of four years with effect from January 2014 to 31st December 2017.
Dr Tax stated that as Martin is aware her performance appraisal was never completed and under the circumstances, the one year observation period referred to in previous letter meant that, “As your new immediate supervisor, I have attached the one year period to allow myself time to finalise your performance appraisal which was not completed by my predecessor.”
Dr Tax and some of the women staff
There are allegations that Dr Tax doesn’t relate well with some of the women employed at SADC headquarters in different capacities. Such women (names withheld) now find themselves either working for months with contracts, job descriptions if not being redeployed to departments that render them redundant. Among such women are both Batswana and Malawian nationals who have been with the SADC secretariat for years
Asked about this, Dr Tax said the issues raised are purely administrative and do happen in any organisation. She said SADC had conducted a job evaluation and that the Malawian national in question was originally under the PRU unit and has since been returned to the library where she is an expert.
On why her former personal assistant (PA) who has been holding the position for ages and served all Executive Secretaries including her, was recently deployed and allowed to work without a job description, Dr Tax said in any organisation any employee can be redeployed to any department where his or her services are best needed.
“The lady in question is my former PA who has been redeployed and there was no need for a new job description as she continues to deal with administration,” she said this week in a telephone interview.
Mma V’s retreat is strategic
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Presidential aspirant Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is playing her cards close to her chest to ease tension between President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and herself ahead of the BDP’s elective congress that has the presidential election as part of its agenda.
This was evident at the BDP National Retreat in Palapye this past weekend when Dr Venson-Moitoi, who is a former cabinet member, made a U-turn on her earlier statement that Dr Masisi had promised her the position of Vice President.
Dr Venson-Moitoi had a week before the retreat told Mmegi in an interview that she had a legitimate expectation as Dr Masisi had promised her the vice presidency. According to sources close to the former longest serving minister, Dr Venson-Moitoi made the U-turn at the Palapye International Convention Centre (PICC) so as to ease tension between the president and herself to avoid a further deterioration in their relationship.
The sources pointed out that as the president seems to be going all out to punish and frustrate those who are against him, Dr Venson-Moitoi would not want to have her campaign for the high position compromised.
Dr Venson-Moitoi revealed at the retreat that she did have a conversation with the president on what she would want to do or to be under Masisi. She however told the delegates that she never said Dr Masisi promised her the VP position. “I told him that now that I would be retiring, I would like to be his vice president. He said he would look into it but never promised me the position,” she said acknowledging Dr Masisi’s choice – Slumber Tsogwane.
Dr Venson-Moitoi’s statement came after a backlash from Dr Masisi who told the democrats that he never promised anyone the position of Vice President. The president said he never did that and would never do that even in future.
He revealed that he appointed Tsogwane his deputy ten (10) minutes before the BDP Parliamentary Caucus. “Of course some people came to me requesting that I make them my vice president. I listened because I am a good listener. So, when adults do talk to me, I listen and will continue to listen but I never promised anyone anything.
“If there is someone here who knows for a fact that I did make that promise, I challenge them to come here and say when, where and how such a promise was made. Even beyond 2019 I have not promised anyone anything. When you choose your deputy, you must choose a good reliable deputy,” the president stated.
For the first time in its history, the BDP will go for presidential elections this year a few months before the national polls. Traditionally, the party would converge at an extraordinary congress where the president would be endorsed as the party’s presidential candidate for General Elections.
Death does not scare me – Masisi
At the height of the well-pronounced disunity within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), fears abound that the life of President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi is under threat.
However, such reports come a long way, from as early as when he was Vice President during which time he survived food poisoning and a plane crash that killed two army officers just before he was to be transported in the aircraft.
The intelligence and related reports suggesting that the president could be assassinated grow everyday, and those close to the presidential security personnel say there are several factors on the ground pointing to the tension that engulfs the first citizen. The president himself on Saturday alluded to the reported security threats around his life, but was quick to say he was not afraid to die. He said there are people who have been telling him that they fear for his life and that he should be careful.
“I met some business people from whom we have been seeking donations and they said they were afraid for my safety. I told them I don’t waste my time thinking that I am going to die. It is certain I am going to die. All of us are going to die,” he told the BDP delegates at the party’s retreat in Palapye on Saturday.
Despite the utterances by the president, the situation on the ground told a different story. Security that manned the entire Majestic Five Hotel was super intense, lending credence to earlier reports that suggested the presidential security arm was also worried by the death threats reported by the party’s warring factions. Even as he publicly said he was not afraid to die, the president would not allow any slight mistake even among people that could be said to be his trusted fellows within the party.
This was the second time BDP converged at Majestic Five Hotel since Dr Masisi became president last year April. The first was on the 11 of August 2018 when the party held a meeting following the postponement of its primary elections. Even though security presence was very visible then, it could not match the one deployed this past Saturday.So intense was the security this weekend that even the head of intelligence, Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) Director Peter Magosi was present at the retreat – an unusual thing as junior officers at DIS are often deployed wherever the president is.
Brigadier Magosi was never out of sight of the president, ensuring he did not delegate this assignment to any of his officers. Magosi has been criticised for this arrangement but the spy chief has made it clear that the safety of the head of state is one of his key responsibilities. “Masisi seems to trust only Magosi and with some members within the DIS still seen to be loyal to the previous DIS boss and former president, Magosi is forced to lead Masisi’s security from the head as he is deemed the best person to quickly detect anything from his knowledge of the officers,” a BDP source shared.
Some sources even suggest that through their alleged ownership of some spy equipment, former DIS boss Isaac Kgosi and former president Ian Khama still have visual and audio access to the State House, a situation that has resulted in Masisi refusing to use the place until he is sure it is cleared of all spy equipment. It is no secret that both Kgosi and Khama are at loggerheads with Masisi whom they feel is out to harass them.
But it is unclear who could be targeting the president, a matter seen to be a covert operation yet to be unmasked. The weekend’s retreat venue in Palapye had three search points – at the main gate where all motor vehicles were searched by police and Botswana Defence Force officers; and two other points manned by BDP officials and Security Systems’ officers where democrats had to show proof that they were delegates for the retreat.
It was during this search that some South African nationals were reportedly arrested by Serowe Police after being found in possession of a firearm. The party also ensured that only party members with accreditation entered the premises and the hall and the accreditation was done at Lotsane Secondary School instead of the hall where the retreat was held.
An altercation even ensued in one of the checkpoints when veteran politician and member of the BDP Labour Committee Kgang Kgang got in a heated argument with Mbakisano Tjiyapo, a member of the Communications and International Relations Committee, for failing to produce his accreditation. Kgang also contested BDP primaries for Mogoditshane constituency in January last year and lost to Tshepang Mabaila who has since been suspended from the party for five years.
Mma V’s retreat is strategic
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