Diplomatic drama

Bame Piet
UNDER THE HAMMER: The Mozambique High Commission

*Mozambique High Commission faces off with Deputy Sheriff

*High Commission owes P949,000.00

In a dramatic confrontation that blurred the lines between diplomatic immunity and the rule of law, officials at the Mozambique High Commission nearly engaged in a physical altercation with Francistown-based Assistant Deputy Sheriff, Masego Phillimon.

Phillimon and her team visited the High Commission in Gaborone to attach and remove assets as part of a court-ordered action.

As Phillimon and her team prepared to tow several vehicles parked outside the High Commission compound, officials emerged from the offices, vehemently asserting that the Deputy Sheriffs had no authority to seize their assets and that the courts had no jurisdiction over the High Commission’s affairs.

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One unidentified officer demanded that Phillimon return to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, claiming that only the ministry could handle diplomatic community issues.

“This is not just a house, madam; you have no authority to enter this place and do all these things that you are doing. If you continue, you will be risking your life,” threatened one of the officers.

It was evident that the parties had previously met.

Phillimon responded that she was not returning to the ministry, as the matter had been discussed in their prior meeting.

She explained that the ministry had indicated it could do nothing about matters already decided by the courts.

The officials blocked the deputy sheriff from towing the vehicles parked outside the compound, with one officer driving away a Volkswagen Passat.

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The remaining officials drove a white VW Jetta, a dark blue Toyota Auris, and a silver-grey Toyota Corolla into the compound, insisting they were not subject to the courts of Botswana.

As the officials blocked the tow truck, one of them called the Central Police Station, complaining of harassment.

Late in the afternoon, the parties agreed to meet on Thursday morning to discuss the way forward and arrange payment.

Superintendent Sharpson Mbuso confirmed that the matter had reached his office but stated that they allowed the parties to resolve it amicably.

The dispute arose from the High Commission’s failure to pay P948,663.87 to E.G Solar (PTY) Ltd for services rendered, along with 10% interest estimated at around P150,000.00.

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The disagreement centers on construction and electrical work that E.G Solar was contracted to execute at a site on the High Commission’s instructions.

The conflict began when the High Commission terminated the contract before completion, leaving the contractor with wage bills, construction materials on-site, and outstanding payments.

The High Court found that the High Commission failed to counter the evidence presented by the contractor supporting their payment demands.

“The Plaintiff has at the assessment of damages spoken succinctly to the work done and tabulated the amounts payable for specific works. The defendants, on the other hand, did not categorically deny that the works were done, not even during cross-examination. They concentrated their efforts on the argument that the invoices were not presented or, if presented, were not certified for payment. One may ask, to whom would the invoices be presented, and who would certify the invoices when the contract was subject to termination?”

The High Court ruled that the High Commission was liable for the debt and must pay.

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