The Gaborone High Court has ruled that Botswana’s Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse, lied under oath in an affidavit regarding a review application for the renewal of a casino license for Letsatsi Casino in Palapye, according to the Sunday Standard.
Letsatsi Casino, which is located next to the Cresta Botsalo Hotel, went back and forth with the Casino Control Board, now named the Gambling Authority, regarding the refusal by the latter to renew its casino license. Having not been satisfied with the decision by the Gaming Authority, Letsatsi appealed to Seretse, only to have the Authority’s earlier decision upheld. At that time, the casino operator brought the matter to the High Court, at which point Seretse filed an answering affidavit, the result of which, cast a shadow over his testimony.
Justice Dr. Zein Kebonang stated in his judgment, “When requested to produce a record of proceedings in respect of the review application, the minister stated under oath that no such record existed. The minister’s position was reflected in an affidavit filed by him on the 12th August 2016. That the record did not exist, was in fact, a falsehood. This is so because on the 16th August 2016, the [Gambling Authority] did produce the record of proceedings sought by the applicant,” according to the news agency.
The state’s attorney, Grenorrah Begane’s, defense was also discounted by the High Court in its attempt to explain why the Minister failed to file his answering affidavit by the court-ordered deadline. When filing late, a pardon or condonation can be applied for by parties to file past the deadline. Begane sought a form of pardon for Seretse, and provided the court with three reasons why the Minister failed to file in time, one of which included Seretse being “very busy” preparing for the country’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. The other two explanations given by Begane were that Seretse went on an official tour of his constituency in October 2016 and that after it ended, “there was cabinet reshuffling, creation of new and renaming of ministries which also took most of the minister’s time.”
The court found all three of Begane’s explanations to be lacking in validity, stating, “I considered this explanation to be unacceptable and misleading. It is a known fact that the independence celebrations were concluded on the 30th September 2016; that a cabinet reshuffle comes at the instance of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Botswana and not any minister, was announced a week before the 30th September 2016 and that Minister Seretse was not affected by the reshuffle as he continued heading the same ministry after the reshuffle,” says Kebonang’s judgement, adding that Seretse was aware of review application as early as August 12, 2016 when he signed his answering affidavit. “The explanation by the minister, provided four months later by his attorney, had all the hallmarks of a contention designed specifically to try and defeat what was an unexplained default” according to the report.
The court’s dismissal of the condonation application rendered Letsatsi’s application unopposed, resulting in it ordering the renewal of Letsatsi’s casino license.
This isn’t the first time Seretse’s actions were questioned; in a similar case involving a license application for the Moonlite Casino, the same judge reportedly said the Minister acted “illegally and irrationally.”
In an effort to expand the gambling market in Botswana, the Gambling Authority will be issuing six additional licenses to the eight already issued, to casino operations, according to recent reports.