The Botswana Gazette journalists Lawrence Seretse and Innocent Selatlhwa together with Managing Director Shike Olsen are suing the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) over unlawful arrest and detention.
The publication’s lawyers from Bayford and Associates have issued a statutory notice to the Attorney General two weeks ago also demanding a public apology from the DCEC director Rose Seretse for defamation.
According to the papers from the newspaper’s lawyer Dick Bayford, the arrest of the three on the 7 May 2015 by officers acting for and on behalf of the Directorate was unlawful. The detention of the plaintiffs at the offices of DCEC was also unlawful according to Bayford.
These arrests came through a directive from the highest office to raid The Botswana Gazette offices and confiscate a computer used to published a story exposing a corruption deal by a deported Zambian national Jerry Chitube, the intelligence unit and ruling elites.
The arrest of Seretse, Olsen, Selatlhwa and the publication’s lawyer Joao Salbany came after the newspaper published a story about an alleged P150 million oil deal involving Botswana Oil.
The notice papers declared that the arrest of the trio’s lawyer and their subsequent questioning by DCEC officers acting for and on behalf of the Directorate to be unlawful and a denial of the plaintiffs constitutional right to legal representation.
The officers arrested the plaintiffs without informing them of a charge, despite protestations from the trio’s legal representatives, according to the notice.
“The plaintiffs were held in custody at the offices of the DCEC without formally being advised of a charge until approximately 5pm. Whilst being detained at the DCEC the plaintiffs were visited by their legal representative,” said the notice.
According to Bayford the legal representative was during the course of consultation with the plaintiffs, arrested and whereupon the officers immediately sought to interrogate the three in the absence of their council. The afore-going was covered extensively in both the video and voice media.
Salbany sues as well
The lawyer Joao Salbany who was representing The Botswana Gazette and was arrested by DCEC for frustrating investigations is also suing the DCEC for unlawful arrest. The lawyer is also suing the DCEC director Seretse for defamation.
Salbany’s representative Bayford, declared that his client’s arrest on 7 May 2015 by DCEC officers was unlawful. He also declared that the plaintiff’’s detention at the Mogoditshane Police Station cells on 7 May was unlawful. The damages for the lawyer’s lawsuit carries the same amount as that of the three The Botswana Gazette employees.
“….that denial access to the plaintiff by his legal representative on the specific instruction of the director and or officers acting in the course and scope of their duties; to be unlawful and a denial of the plaintiff’s constitutional right to legal representation,” said Bayford.
Salbany was detained alone in a cell in conditions that were inhumane and degrading in that inter alia the abolition facilities were overflowing with feces and urine according to the notice. According to Bayford, the condition of the facilities and the stench of such was so overpowering as to render them unusable.
“At no point in time did a custodian of the plaintiff offer water to him nor water was available in the cell,” said the notice.
Salbany’s lawyer Duma Boko attended Mogoditshane Police Station to meet with his client but was denied access by the station commander who said he was under firm instructions by officers of the DCEC not to allow plaintiff access to his legal representative, the notice stated. The plaintiff’s attorney was denied access to the plaintiff for a period of approximately two hours, according to the notice.
Salbany is suing the DCEC director for defamatory remarks. According to the claim on the 14 May 2015 the director gave an interview on Botswana Television whereat she informed the public that it was unacceptable to the DCEC that “persons” felt that they could object to a search warrant in violation of the rule of law. The director went on to remark at a press conference on 15 May 2015 that the search warrants are to be obeyed without exception; that they could be challenged in a court of law according to Bayford. The notice further states that she said “such warrant are to be obeyed without fail.”
“In the context of the publications (BTV and BTV interview) as a whole, the defendant’s intention was to convey the innuendo that the plaintiff; willfully disobeys court orders, consider himself above the law, does not adhere to democratic principles and resort to self-help,” said Bayford.
According to Bayford, the innuendo is wrongful and defamatory of his client. Salbany is an officer of the court and the defamatory publication lowers his esteem, reputation not only in the eyes of the public, colleagues but also in that of the judiciary according to the claim. The notice added that the DCEC officers were acting unlawfully and were advised as such.
“The plaintiff was acting in accordance with the law, which law of search and entry warrants the director ought to be or would reasonably be expected to be familiar with; the publication was conveyed to a national audience and the statements were made in bad faith,” read Bayford’s notice.
Salbany’s lawyers are seeking public apology at the same fora from Seretse.
Jerry Chitube was arrested by security agents and PI`ed on the eve of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) National Youth Executive Council (NYEC) elections in February. The explanation given to this publication by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DISS) was that he was involved in some fraudulent dealings and possessed fake Omangs.
The DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi has since distanced himself from Chitube stating that the DIS has never engaged in any illegal dealings with him, but investigations have revealed that the DISS often engaged Chitube in their covert and rogue operations and even sourced a fraudulent Omang card for him.