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Ceda Vindicated As Court Upholds Employee’s Dismissal

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Judge says employee did not rebut evidence against her

KEABETSWE NEWEL

Primrose Solomon, a former employee of the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA), has lost a case in which she was suing the agency for unfair dismissal, demanding compensation and reinstatement.

The case, which dates back to 2017, made headlines when The Botswana Gazette reported allegations that the employee was fired for refusing to approve a loan application from former MP Samson Guma Moyo’s company, United Refineries Botswana (URB).

Solomon, who was employed as Portfolio Executive, told the court that she first crossed swords with the chief executive of CEDA Thabo Thamane in 2016 when she was accused of delaying a request by Hoisting Solutions to purchase CEDA’s 49 percent stake in United Refineries. She alleged that Thamane later summoned her to his office and demanded that she either resign or face disciplinary action. However, the court noted that no disciplinary action was taken against her regarding the Hoistings Solutions matter.

In November 2017, Guma’s now defunct oil refinery company, URB, submitted an application for a short-term loan facility of P9.2 million to CEDA. The application landed on Solomon’s lap as Portfolio Executive in the Structured Finance department. Upon evaluation of the application, Solomon pointed out a few red flags, chief among them being the fact that URB already had a P30 million credit facility with CEDA which they were failing to service.

“Additionally, URB was operating at a loss and not tax compliant,” she said. “It was technically insolvent as it was facing foreclosure by FNB and BDC for a P25 million and P15 million credit facility.”

She also alleged that she received threatening text messages from one of the shareholders of URB, a certain Mr. Tibe, who allegedly texted to her: “If Thabo gets embarrassed tomorrow because of all this mess you are going to be the fall girl. In my book you dropped the ball and you are going to pay for it…”

In January 2018, Solomon was called for a disciplinary hearing after URB complained that their application had been delayed. She was later found guilty and dismissed.

In his witness statement, the Director of Human Capital at CEDA, Tirelo Leshetla, told the court that it was true that the URB application had been delayed because the turnaround time for a short-term facility is five days. For his part, CEDA’s chief executive Thabo Thamane said the Hoisting Solutions issue was brought to his attention after it had been delayed by 16 months. He said he was not directly involved in the URB application because he was an ex-officio board member of the company at the time.

Giving evidence, Head of Structured Finance at CEDA, James Moribame, told the court that Solomon sat on the URB application from 17 November 2017 until 14 December 2017. According to Moribame, she kept on asking for more time and extending the deadline until Moribame instructed her to hand over the URB file to someone else.

In passing judgment, Justice Bahuma of the Industrial Court faulted Solomon for investing most of her efforts in the Hoisting Solutions matter when she was charged for misconduct pertaining to the URB application. He said Solomon had done nothing to rebut evidence submitted by the two witnesses that she had called, Thamane and Moribame.

He added that Solomon had taken it upon herself to frustrate the URB application as she took a whole three weeks to appraise it until her boss took it out of her hands in exasperation.
“Even though the URB appraisal was completed by her colleague, Solomon still found it necessary to send disclaimers to CEDA management,” said the judge. “This shows that she was prepared to go beyond her scope of duty to stand in the way of the URB application. The court has come to the conclusion that Solomon wilfully misconducted herself and CEDA had a valid reason for terminating her employment.”

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