GC Mayor Embroiled In Marathon Scandal
- Disgruntled youth serves Thutlwe with lawsuit notice papers
- Thutlwe damages youth’s reputation to potential sponsors- Desai
- They are lying, I engaged them- Thutlwe
- Contradicting facts on ownership of marathon
Gaborone City Mayor, Kagiso Thutlwe is caught in a bitter feud in which Desai Law Group has threatened legal action and accused him of abuse for strong-arming a local business man out of ownership of an annual marathon event.
In a letter of demand, a prelude to legal proceedings, the mayor is accused of “stealing” the idea for an annual marathon registered as an intellectual property of Time Shields Events- after having endorsed it to several sponsors, only to renege on his support and declare it his own, before engaging in what the complainants call “a smear campaign” to damage their reputation in a letter to potential sponsors.
The mayor however says the marathon concept belongs to him adding that he is the one who appointed the company. This however is contrary to a speech he delivered at the marathon’s media launch now posted in the council’s website in which he says “Time Shields Events has approached my office, to host the first independence Half Marathon on the 18th of September 2016…my office has endorsed and agreed to support this noble initiative.”
Communication from Time Shields Events who Thutlwe was referring to in the speech is captured in the first letter the company wrote him dated 1st February 2016. The letter reads thus “We present an exclusive opportunity for the city mayor to partner with us in executing this unique event and allowing us to title the event as follows: ‘Gaborone City Mayor Bot50 Independence Half Marathon,” a gesture seemingly aimed at recognising the city mayor’s office. The letter further says “We will be grateful if you considered our proposal to endorse the 1st annual Botswana independence Half Marathon,” requiring his approval.
The case, according to the attorneys for the youthful directors of the aggrieved company, concerns a dispute over a letter Thutlwe wrote which according to them damaged the reputation of their company, Time Shields. The Mayor, according to the correspondence, was engaged as a patron of the proposed marathon.
Time Shields sought and was granted both official permission and endorsement in writing on February 1st 2016 by Thutlwe as revealed by a correspondence in the hands of The Botswana Gazette.
In endorsing the company’s concept, the Mayor wrote, “This serves to acknowledge that Gaborone City Council through my office supports the noble idea of the Independence Half Marathon to be hosted by Time Shields Events on the 24th September 2016. This is in line with the vision pillar of A United and Proud Nation and comes at a time when Gaborone City and the nation celebrate 50 years of independence.”
Support was also sought from the BOT50 Committee Coordinator Charity Kgotlafela by the Time Shields directors and she responded positively on July 22nd 2016 in correspondence also in this publication’s possession.
In her response Kgotlafela indicated that “a group of young Batswana trading under the company Time Shield, an event organising company in partnership with the Office of the Mayor have come together to host an annual Botswana Independence Half Marathon to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Botswana Independence on the 24th September 2016 at the GSS grounds.”
The letter of demand, which sets out the basis for Time Shields’ legal claim indicates that the directors of the company were unaware that Thutlwe would demand payment for the endorsement and support of the event.
“Throughout the preparations, Mr Kgotla who was part of the organising team and a close friend to the mayor informed us that the mayor expects some personal reward from the race proceeds. Kgotla further informed us that we should not burn bridges by refusing to give the mayor some financial reward for his support. A blank cheque (as per the mayor’s advice-as he didn’t want it to be in his name) worth P20 000 was issued to the Mayor. Later Mr Kgotla informed us that the Mayor is not happy with the amount given to him and that he has intentions of sabotaging the event in 2017,” said Time Shields’ Tumelo Seabo. Thutlwe however flatly refuted this claim as “a lie” when it was put to him by The Botswana Gazette, saying he never demanded or expected to be rewarded or paid. “I have heard that suggestion from some people and I don’t know where it is coming from,” he said.
Seabo according to the correspondence found this to be questionable. “We later learnt that there is a grand plan between the mayor and Botswana National Sports Commission to sabotage us and to discredit us for the next year.”
Chickens came home to roost on April 3rd when preparations for the 2017 event faced serious challenges from the Mayor who withdrew his support for Time Shields. After endorsement had been granted by Botswana Athletics Association for the 2017 Marathon, Thutlwe wrote a letter to the association terminating his office’s support for the company as the event manager.
In Thutlwe’s letter to BAA, he states that “this letter serves to inform and notify your good office that the Office of the Mayor has terminated the services of Time Shields as organisers of the 2017 Botswana Independence Half Marathon. As you may be aware in September 2016, my office engaged the services of Time Shield Events to coordinate and organise the marathon on behalf of my office. As the office of the mayor we did not receive any reports, financial or otherwise from the appointed services provider being Time Shields Events.”
The letter further reads “as the office of the mayor, we hereby notify your good office to cease dealing with Time Shields Events, directly or indirectly in relation to organising and or managing the Botswana Independence Half Marathon. The mayor’s office has not renewed the mandate of Time Shield Events for the 2017 Marathon.” Shortly after issuing the letter the Mayor registered a marathon now dubbed the “Mayor’s Marathon”.
When asked about the procedure followed towards appointing Time Shield Events for the marathon, Thutlwe told The Botswana Gazette that it was a direct appointment to the company by his office.
The managers of Time Shields say the letter and conduct of the mayor has shocked them as they were never engaged by the city council or him. “This however didn’t come as a shock given the above-mentioned warnings and intentions by the mayor to use his office to take an initiative by young people who initially sought his support as a public officer. The youth have engaged lawyers- Desai Law group- on the matter who have instructed Thutlwe to “immediately retract an immediately issue an apology to our client failure of which we will proceed to institute appropriate legal proceedings for the damages suffered.”
“The contents of the said letter in so far as it relates to client are wrongful and defamatory of our client in that they were intended and were understood by readers to mean that our client is dishonest with questionable character,” reads the notice by Desai Law Group.
Contacted for comment by this publication, Thutlwe claimed that the marathon was the council’s idea and said that he has a letter appointing Time Shields Events, a claim which Time Shields owners deny.
Botswana Athletics Association has declined to comment on the dispute saying they are still trying to resolve the issue.
Thutlwe’s Marathon has already attracted a list of elite financial organisations expected to make the event a success.