We have taken some heavy blows recently, haven’t we? Last November there was the Attorney General suing Parliament on behalf of the President; Then in July came the physical ejection, like a bag of unwanted rubbish, of an elected MP from the National Assembly who was left sprawling on the ground outside.
Now we have the dismal scenario of the Judiciary at war with itself with the President, at the behest of the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Committee, suspending four judges for theft, other judges coming to their support and amidst accusation and counter-accusation, several judges reversing their earlier decisions, with one expressing contriteness in a manner which has uncomfortable echoes of Stalinist confessions.
Whatever the outcome of this dismal scenario, we will all emerge bruised and deprived. This therefore must be the moment to suggest that the judges title, ‘Lord’, be dropped. It is an anachronism and an absurd left over from the past.
This country is a republic and as a generality, it has no Lords or Ladies.
Judges will perform neither better nor worse without this title.
Titles should be used and/or retained only if they are gender unspecific.
Many will be aware that people struggled when addressing a female Judge.
Should she be addressed as Mrs Judge, Lady Judge or Your Honour Lady Judgess?
A Lord is a masculine title, its obverse being ‘Lady’. But the obverse of ‘Lady’ is presumably, ‘Man’.
And of course, the last Speaker, the blessed Margaret, made precisely the same point when giving her book the title, Madam Speaker Sir.
If more women are to achieve those positions in future, its time that we got these titles right.
But then, on the same sort of subject, I suggest that if we dump the title, ‘Lord’ we should also dump those wigs.
I have a weakness for tradition, believe that it can be overplayed and recognise that there is a tight boundary between respect and ridicule.
This is a hot country, about to get much hotter, so that female judges, in particular, who wear one wig on top of another will only be able to do their jobs if the electricity and the air conditioning is on song which may not always happen.
I haven’t a clue what the cost of a full-sized wig might be, but I am fairly sure that judges will be allowed to include their purchase as a tax reclaimable item. This would then mean that it is the taxpayer who pops out for a cost for which there is no logical justification. But when it comes to legal matters I am a virtual illiterate.
For years I have been asking why this country has no coroners.
But there was no helpful authority who
Eventually, I was privately tipped - Roman Dutch Law has no provision for a Coroner. Similarly the same authority advised me – because I had asked – that cases involving custody are automatically heard by a judge.
I wondered why there are no family courts to deal with such issues and why, in a system that is supposedly non-adversarial, unlike the British common law system, the key, non-adversarial element can turned out to be very different from a school boy pillow fight.
Then, I have also wondered why relatively minor child custody cases have to be heard by a Judge, whilst the Olopeng/Moyo hearing, which would seem to be rather more serious, is heard by a Magistrate.
Roman Dutch Law again, I presume.
To me, this is an obvious misuse of resources. A high court judge has to hear a low cost, domestic issue whilst a lower court magistrate is required for a case that appears to involve high cost issues.
To me, it’s all back to front. My recent visit to a court in the new High Court building in Gaborone was the first since I got to the Peleng Community Centre in 1995 to try and hear Justice Nganunu delivering his Seepapitso judgement.
I had wondered then if Julian had forgotten to turn on his mike or that there was no power?
In the event, it was desperately difficult to hear his very important conclusions.
Twenty years later, and I find that little has changed with a similar scenario being played out in the new ultra modern High Court.
Is it a fixed element of the Roman Dutch legal system that judges should be inaudible so that those involved should not have the slightest clue as to what is going on?
The Judiciary prefers to maintain a discreet distance from the rest of us.
Hence the distinguishing regalia. But in some respects there must be a case for reducing that distance and for making the system more accessible and more understandable.
With the judges having brought themselves down to our level, there might just be a small window which is now opening which could provide opportunity to achieve change. Why not take it?