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.
BRING IT ON Ignatius Moswaane ready to serve Francistown West again
Ignatius Moswaane is a former Francistown City Mayor and he served as Monarch Councillor until he took over the reigns as Francistown West constituency in 2014. The constituency had been in the hands of the late Tshelang Masisi before Moswaane took over.
Now the outspoken MP is ready to defend it.
He lists the construction of an additional secondary school at Gerald Estate, the undertaking of a P36 million streetlights project and construction of a road network at Monarch among some of his achievements both as Councillor and later MP.
“The peripheral servicing of the planned Central Business District (CBD) at Gerald Estate has been completed. “Over and above that we have used the P10 million community development money from government to build houses, some of which we are renting out to public servants.“We have divided the constituency into three (3) clusters and each will have a multi-purpose recreational hall,” said the Botswana Democratic (BDP) Member of Parliament (MP).
He added that Gerald Estates and Phase 6 in Monarch will soon have a local center each owned by the VDC which will lease the shopping area to business. Moswaane initiated Monarch Development Centre to help the youth access government economic projects by, among other things, doing business plans for them for free. His next phase is to push for industrialisation of Francistown by using local resources. “Besides, Francistown must become an industrial hub for the region where, instead of SADC countries going all the way to Johannesburg and Durban to collect their cargo, the cargo is brought to the Francistown airport from their source be it Asia, or where ever by plane for the owner to collect the cargo here.
Our airport is under-utilised at the moment,” he noted. Another way of creating employment is for government to increase its efforts of using ISPAAD to help small scale farmers next to Francistown to grow fruits and vegetables to the extent that we do not import anything. Moswaane regrets government’s slow pace on allocating plots at Gerald Estates. “Since 2012 some 2500 plots have been serviced yet a lot of people from as far back as 1990s are on the waiting list because government is yet to allocate the plots.
The Minister had promised that the process would commence in December last year but nothing has thus far happened. If elected, I will follow up on the matter,” pledged the MP. He is also of the view that more resources should be invested in Nyangabgwe to make it a health facility of choice. “It should be turned into a state of the art hospital where special medical care is provided to attract even people from outside the country. The residents of Francistown need a district hospital,” he observed.
If he returns to parliament, Moswaane will move that the Youth Development Fund (YDF) be increased from P120million to P1billion and the Gender Economic Empowerment Fund from P50 million to P1 billion as well. Moswaane believes the country should build more technical colleges and brigades to carter for the thousands of students who leave school every year without the necessary grade needed as the entry threshold to tertiary schools.
In 2014, Moswane garnered 5304 votes against second-placed Habaudi Hobona of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) who was voted in by 3461 voters. UDC was represented by Shatiso Tambula who managed a paltry 950 votes. This year Moswaane will have to fend off competition from Dira Moalosi of the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Mbaakanyi Lenyatso of the UDC.
FREE AT LAST: LGBTI persons celebrate
Thapelo Matshameko, a transgender woman who last year was attacked at Trekkers night club in Gaborone is over the moon about the High Court ruling that overturned a law that criminalised same sex relations.
A trans-woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth. In response to the ruling, she told The Midweek Sun that even though she has had it tough before with people calling her ‘Brazen’ and to stop behaving like a woman, she is now happy that the law recognises that they exist. She said that Batswana are now becoming tolerant towards Lesbians Gays Bisexual Transgender and Intersex persons.
“Recently I went out for dinner with my bae, and I came all the way from my house wearing a dress. People that know me loved it and my boyfriend loved it even more,” she says, adding that the verdict will also help other LGBTI persons that are in the closet to come out.
In a previous interview Metshameko pleaded for assistance from members of the public to help her do a surgery that would make her a complete woman. For Motswakgakala Sithole also known as Motswafere in music circles, the ruling shows that Botswana is one step closer to gay marriages.
“Thank you to all the visible gay people. We take punches for those hiding and those shaming us for being visible and exercising our rights. You guys attended court cases with pride and you have carried us to freedom,” he said.
He also thanked Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), lawyers in the case, the media, and friends of the LGBTI community for their support. Phio Kenosi who identifies as trans non-binary asexual woma-romantic, (romantically attracted to the feminine essence), was also ecstatic.
“It is obviously showing that we are moving in a new direction that is positive and inclusive towards sexual and gender minority,” he said.
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