For the past 10 years government has been disregarding legal advice from the Attorney Generals in some cases that could have saved millions of taxpayers’ money. Mostly such cases involved fighting public sector unions in the courts of law.
This was revealed by the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi when speaking at the funeral of Deputy Attorney General Morulaganyi Chamme in Mahalapye recently.
Morupisi said he and former President Ian Khama disregarded Chamme’s advice, as head of Litigation during government marathon cases.
“He once warned me that if we don’t comply with the court order I will go to jail alone while President Khama will not be arrested due to presidential immunity,” said Morupisi to the multitudes of mourners who gathered in Mahalapye to bid farewell to the legal guru.
One of the milestone cases that Chamme handled was the 2014 case in which former President Khama challenged the National Assembly Standing Orders on the election of the Speaker and endorsement of the Vice-president. Khama wanted lawmakers to vote by a show of hands for his deputy, instead of through a secret ballot.
According to Morupisi, Chamme – who was representing government – had tried in vain to advise former President Khama that they will lose the case and that it was against the principles of democracy to dictate on how MPs should vote.
During the case it was clear that the late Chamme was struggling to defend the case as most attorneys felt that he was not himself.
He argued during the case that a show of hands in voting is implicitly required by the Constitution of Botswana, and not expressly set out. The AG posited that voting this way promotes transparency and accountability and is consistent with Commonwealth best practice.
To show that he was not comfortable with the case when Justice Walia asked him what the Constitutions said in those countries the soft spoken Chamme failed to answer expressly, all he could say was that he was not sure.
When delivering judgment Justice Michael Leburu said: “A secret ballot is a hallmark of a free and fair election within our representative democracy,” adding that the right to vote is an indispensable feature in Botswana’s democracy.
He said that it was important that voting must be free from intimidation and or coercion.
Morupisi acknowledged that they were always at loggerheads with public sector unions, especially Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU).
In 2017 former President Khama shocked many when he announced in a kgotla meeting in Maun that government was going to increase salaries of public service workers but said this will only cover wages of those in the low income bracket.
This he did without the consent of the bargaining council, forcing BOFEPUSU to take the issue to the Gaborone High Court which interdicted Government from awarding the increment unilaterally and declaring such unlawful.
Justice Tshepo Motswagole interdicted Government from continuing to pay salaries of public officers inclusive of three and four percent salary adjustment for the financial years 2016/17 and 2017/18 respectively.
However, Government went ahead and paid salaries of public officers inclusive of three and four percent salary adjustment for the financial years 2016/17 and 2017/18 respectively.
This, according to Morupisi, they did against the advice of government attorneys including the late Chamme who warned that they will be in contempt of court.
The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was forced to make a concession with BOFEPUSU to pay a 3% and 4% salary increment to members of (BOFEPUSU trade unions) with effect from the 1st June 2017.
Paying tribute to the man who he usually faced in court, attorney Mboki Chilisa said Chamme gave his services without fear or favour; thus affirming the statement by Morupisi.
“In the midst of the political turbulence he remained loyal to his conscience and the Constitution. A man who was deserving and worthy of appointment to the position of Attorney General but could never be appointed because he was never a bootlicker and was very principled. As a colleague, he was an absolute gentleman, who always settled matters on behalf of Government when justice and reason required him to do so. He was a terrific lad, always ready and willing to take a phone call to discuss the settlement of a dispute. The public has lost a principled legal giant!” wrote Chilisa on his social media page.