Minister, AG in child adoption fray

The Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Ramadeluka Seretse, Attorney General Athalia Molokomme, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Khumo Matlhare and Commissioner of Police Keabetswe Makgophe are mysteriously involved in a highly unusual adoption case that culminated with a six-year old in Orapa being forcibly removed from the care of her biological father and given to a South African adoptive mother who immediately left for Qatar with the child.

From the telling of those familiar with the case, the separation of father and child was executed with military precision. Around 9 p.m., Orapa police called and took away the child. That same night, the child was driven to Gaborone by complete strangers. Upon arrival, she was checked into a hotel and her room was guarded by police officers all night. The following day she was handed over to her adoptive mother, a South African woman called Deborah Jan Kirsten Mey, who is said to be in Qatar with the child.

Mey won custody of the child after a long battle with the biological father. An August 6, 2014 court order by Magistrate Queen Moanga directs that the child must be returned to Mey’s care and guardianship within 48 hours. It was after this that the Boteti Sub-district Council through its lawyers (Ndadi Law Firm) moved an application for a stay of execution of the court order. One of its social workers had adjudged Mey to be unsuited to the role of adoptive mother because of her personality flaws. The social workers “social enquiry” report says she threw a temper tantrum during an interview and in such pique, revealed that the child was HIV positive. A follow-up report says that the child had developed emotional attachment to her father. In the circumstances, the Council decided that it would not be in the best interest of the child to be removed from the custody of the father.

The 48 hours passed without the order being enforced and it was under such circumstances that Seretse, Molokomme and Makgophe came into the picture.
A 22nd of August, 2014 savingram signed by Halakangwa Mbulai, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, addressed to the Senior Assistant Council Secretary of Boteti Sub-District Council, Motshwariemang Matseka, provides a bit more detail about the involvement of the trio. Earlier that morning, Mbulai and Matseka had had a telephone conversation about the issue. The subject was a meeting convened by Seretse and Molokomme “to which our Ministry and the Commissioner of Police were called to respond to our failure to effect instructions contained in a court order issued by Magistrate Q.L. Moanga on the 6th August 2014 at Letlhakane.” The savingram quotes Molokomme as pointing out that it is unlawful not to comply with a court order. Mbulai instructed Matseka to ensure compliance with the court order as well as to provide written two reports, one giving an account of actions the Council has taken following the issuance of the order and the other detailing which lawyer was representing the Council and had been appearing in court on its behalf. Matseka was also instructed to provide a written statement clarifying the justification of leaving the child with its biological father.

What is unusual about this case is that members of the executive, the head of the Botswana Police Service and senior government officials have never been known to be so involved in the enforcement of court orders. Asked to explain his office’s involvement, Seretse said he was merely enforcing the court order.

“There is nothing special about this case. It is just like other cases. We were ensuring that the rule of law is followed. The child had to be handed within 48 hours to the adoptive mother. By the time the police took the child, 48 hours had elapsed and the police had to do as instructed by the court order. A court order has to be acted upon regardless of the time. Maybe that is why the police took the child at that time,” the minister said. On the 21st of August 2014 magistrate Moanga dismissed an urgent contempt of court application brought against the biological father by the adoptive father on the basis that it was not urgent. This Ndadi said justified the child staying in custody of father and meant “the police were acting outside of the law”. It is understood that the case had been set for the 9th of September 2014. The intervention of the Commissioner, The minister and the attorney General has rendered this court date inconsequential. “We served the government with a statutory notice last week Friday before the child was flown out, demanding that they return the girl to the biological parents,” said Ndadi.

It is understood that the child may be in Qatar, where the adoptive mother is reported to be residing.
“Our instructions are to now approach the High Court for declaratory orders confirming that the manner in which the child was removed from her biological parents was unlawful, insensitive and above all, not in the best interest of the child.”

Mey adopted the child in 2009 after making contact with the biological mother. At this time, the former worked as a teacher at a Debswana Mining Company school in Orapa. The social worker’s report says she has another child, a two-year old boy that she adopted in South Africa. “She said she does not have a biological child because she is a Christian and cannot have a child if not married,” the report says.