Botswana might lose over P1m owed to the government by one Zimbabwean government-owned company over cattle sales.
The debt, which is close to five years in existence, is according to a representative from the Attorney Generals Chambers risk being written off should the debtor raise a prescription defense. The Prescription Act, according to the counsel, dictates that a debt that has been left lying for as much as three years be thrown out.
When questioning the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Marcus Chimbombi at the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, Tati East Member of Parliament Moyo Guma questioned why the debt has been left to stay for such a long time.
In Guma’s view the monies owed to Botswana by the Zimbabwean government was in their terms, small. According to Moyo, it was quite clear that the Ministry of Agriculture was either reluctant to recover the money or they were not engaging their Zimbabwean counterparts enough.
In response Chimbombi said they had on several occasions followed the matter with Cold Storage and have written evidence to prove it. According to Chimbombi, they are forced to be lenient on the company because they still want to have business relations with it in future.
He told the PAC that as a matter of fact they had had other business transactions with the company as late as this year, while the debt was still in existence. “We have had other transactions with the company worth monies well over the debt. I wouldn’t want to jeopardise our future relations over this debt,” said Chimbombi.
He downplayed fears that government might lose the money should the company raise a prescription defense, saying that they communicated with Cold Storage about the debt last year in which they (Cold Storage) acknowledged that they were aware of its existence and had promised to make payments. “We have even taken up the matter with the Zimbabwean embassy,” said Chimbombi.
Section 10 (1) of the Prescription Act of Botswana states that a debt shall be extinguished by prescription after the lapse of the period which in terms of the relevant law applies in respect of the prescription of such debt.