Mmegi Online :: Phumaphi: A colossal legal luminary
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Last Updated
Friday 08 December 2017, 17:25 pm.
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Phumaphi: A colossal legal luminary

FRANCISTOWN: Former judge of the Francistown High Court, Mpaphi Phumaphi, has been praised as a colossal legal luminary. Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo lauded him praise during a farewell dinner hosted for Phumaphi on Saturday, attended by many of his colleagues in the judiciary and legal sector.
By Lebogang Mosikare Tue 26 Apr 2016, 15:10 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Phumaphi: A colossal legal luminary








Giving a keynote address, Dibotelo said JP, as his colleagues within the legal fraternity fondly addressed Phumaphi, had meritoriously served 13 years as a High Court judge after leaving his career in private practice. Dibotelo said Phumaphi attained the age of 70 last year in July, but according to Section 97 of the Botswana Constitution, was permitted to continue as a judge by the President acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission until December 31, 2015. “This was done to enable him to complete cases, which were pending before him including the delivery of judgments as well as to finish the onerous task he was assigned to in the Kingdom of Lesotho,” said Dibotelo.  Dibotelo said Phumaphi completed all cases before him timeously unlike some former judicial officers, which actions had resulted in failures of justice much to the chagrin of litigants and members of the public.

“Phumaphi is a clear example of leadership and has a sense of selfless dedication to duty.  We need more of these virtues and attributes from all our judicial officers so that the public continues to have confidence in the legal and justice system,” Dibotelo said. The Chief Justice said Phumaphi attained his law degree in 1974 and was selected as inaugural chairman of the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) in 1996, a role he performed until 2000. “As was the hallowed tradition at the time, Phumaphi was approached for the High Court bench and on October 1, 2002, was appointed a judge of the High Court based in Lobatse and was later transferred to Francistown,” said Dibotelo. Phumaphi, Dibotelo said, became the judge in charge of the Francistown High Court by virtue of being the most senior judge until his retirement. “I also delegated him to supervise all the magistrates in the northern region…and now that mantle has passed onto Justice Zibani Makhwade as the most senior judge in this division,” the Chief Justice added. When the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (Roy Sesana/Basarwa case) was ready for trial, Dibotelo said the late former Chief Justice Marian Nganunu empanelled a bench of three senior judges to hear the case.

“…We did very well although we had our differences.  Our differences were based on legal principles. Phumaphi exhibited all the virtues one cherishes in a judge; patience, conviction, firmness, clarity and a sense of humour. He was also occasionally assigned to assist at the

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Court of Appeal cognisant of his analytical, well-reasoned and researched judgments,” Dibotelo said.  Phumaphi, Dibotelo said, was chosen as chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) team enquiring about the death of Lesotho Defence Force commander, Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao.

“As it turned out in that tense and emotive environment, Phumaphi represented us well in the manner in which he discharged his mantle. His timeous report has gone a long way in quelling and stabilising the crisis and volatile situation that obtained in Lesotho,” he said.

In his remarks, Gabriel Komboni, manager of Phumaphi, Chakalisa & Co Attorneys said he inherited the law firm from Phumaphi in 2002 after he was appointed as a High Court judge.

“Phumaphi left a legacy and he established a firm foundation that we are still following today. His books were always in order. He led the LSB with a brave attitude and style. Once in a while clashes with major stakeholders would erupt, but Phumaphi dealt with the matters diligently. He is a man of principle and acquitted himself very well.”  “He also embraced the judicial case management system for the benefit of all parties concerned because cases that take too long to complete have psychological and economic impact on litigants. His crisp, well-researched and always to the point judgments also had a sense of humanity even though in some cases he ruled in favour of capital punishment,” said Komboni.

An example of his principled and independent-mindedness, Komboni noted that during the CKGR case, Phumaphi and then justice Unity Dow differed with government on the relocation of Basarwa from the reserve.

For his part, Phumaphi said that judges of the High Court should always exercise their duties dutifully without undue pressure from authorities, as is the case in some countries.

He said: “I have complete confidence in our judiciary. We continue to exercise our duty without any external pressure. From my many years as a judge, nobody has ever tried to influence my decisions. I take full responsibility for my decisions whether they were bad or good”.

“It is important for judges to work without any undue pressure. This must continue because when everything else fails, the judiciary becomes a refuge for all those who feel aggrieved,” Phumaphi said, adding that the best thing that makes the judiciary good is good lawyers, “who are devoted to fight for the rights of litigants no matter what the stakes hold”.

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