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Farewells pour in as Dingake leaves the bench

Honoured: Justice Dingake's peers showered him with praise at his farewell
Luminary members of the judiciary both local and international, as well as other dignitaries, friends and family gathered recently to bid farewell to Justice Key Dingake who leaves the High Court bound for assignment to Papua New Guinea. Mmegi herebelow samples a few of the farewell messages

Edwin Cameron

Judge, Constitutional Court of South Africa

It has been a privilege over the last 10 years to work with, and to get to know, Justice Oagile "Key" Dingake. He has proved himself a passionate, highly intelligent, forthright advocate for social justice, law reform, and for health causes, including HIV/AIDS.

He is a noted figure in international circles, where his stature and advocacy are greatly respected.

Key is an intensely likeable, warm, engaging and appealing person, with a refreshing directness and immediacy.  He has a charismatic, warm personality and in this way he has brought personal power to the causes he champions.

I believe that in his new tasks in Papua New Guinea he will bring all his energy, charm and charisma - but I sincerely hope he will have a lot left over for those of us who are his compatriots in Southern Africa, as well as the rest of the African continent!


Isaac Lenaola

Judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya

On behalf of The Judicial Action Group (JAG) which I chair and on my own behalf, I would like to congratulate my revered brother, Oagile Key Bethuel Dingake on his most deserved appointment to join the PNG Supreme Court.

As my colleague in JAG and at the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, I have come to appreciate Judge Dingake as a straightforward man with deep convictions and an even deeper intellect.

His commitment to social justice and the rule of law has seen him traverse the World to speak passionately about those pet subjects and he is highly regarded as a defender of the down trodden and of Judicial Independence. While Botswana and Africa will temporarily miss his Voice, the World will remain his Podium for exchange of ideas on the improvement of Mankind in matters of Human Rights.

I wish my brother well as he embarks on this phase of his life and regret my inability to personally attend this Farewell Gathering.


Justice Thomas Masuku

Justice of the High Court of Namibia and former Judge of the High Courts of Botswana and Swaziland

My revered Brother, your appointment to serve in the Supreme Court of Papa New Guinea evokes discordant feelings and emotions within me. I am very ecstatic and at the same time, very sad. Naturally, I am delighted that your skills and value as a judicial luminary have been acknowledged and appropriately rewarded after a long and at times painful gestation period.

In this respect, we send you out as the legal and judicial ambassador of Botswana and the entire SADC Region beyond our borders. You have now become our judicial export to humanity at large; to serve humanity well, beyond the small confines of our Region.

On the other hand, it is sad and unthinkable for me that Botswana stands to lose a person and judicial officer of your calibre, rare and special skills, judicial acumen and disposition.

I record that your education, dedication, training and abilities are in very short supply in our Mother Continent, Africa. All we can hope for in this regard, is that you will one day return to enrich our jurisprudence, armed with experiences and perspectives  wider than those of our Region, and to good effect.

I wish you my friend and Brother Key and for whom I hold the utmost reverence, all the best as you undertake this new and exciting venture. Brother Key, please know that we stand by you and wish you a productive and stimulating time abroad.

Please remember to remain true to the ideals for which we know you and which you have continuously

espoused – rendering justice to whom justice is due - regardless of the prevailing pressures and circumstances, be they ideological, political, religious or of whatsoever nature. You and your entire family remain in our thoughts and prayers.

Go well Brother Key! Hamba kahle!! Tsamaya sentle!! Godspeed.


Vanja Karth

Faculty of Law University of Cape Town

We have been associated with Justice Dingake in various capacities over a number of years. Justice Dingake has worked closely with the DGRU advising and assisting us in developing our project on judicial governance in the SADC region and he has made an invaluable contribution. In 2013 we nominated him for the “Gender Justice Uncovered Awards” offered by Women’s Link Worldwide and he received a bronze award for his decision in Mmusi and Others v. Ramantele and Another.

Justice Dingake was a doctoral graduate from our Department of Public Law almost twenty years’ ago, and was subsequently made an honorary professor in the Faculty in 2014.

In 2016, we launched the Judicial Institute for Africa, which offers judges in Africa access to university certified short courses on topics relevant to their exacting responsibilities. Justice Dingake forms part of our core faculty and has been instrumental in assisting in the development of the curriculum and facilitating the courses.

We have always been struck by his commitment to the values we espouse in our unit: human rights and good governance. Other universities have also recognised his special talents and commitment, and in 2011 he was appointed an extraordinary lecturer at the Centre of Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

These values, we believe, are clearly demonstrated in the hundreds of judgements he has delivered , both on the high court bench and as an acting appellate judge. Many of these decisions have been ground-breaking and have been well received by the human rights and academic communities.

Widely reported on in the popular media, they have also prompted a number of scholarly journal articles that critically assess the significant contribution of his judgments to improving the condition of women and children as well as other marginalised groups such as people with HIV-AIDS.

He has not hesitated to write decisions that overrule customary law where following custom would have resulted in injustice and thus be unconstitutional. It is also characteristic of some of the more difficult decisions he has had to make, that, where necessary, he reviews the relevant jurisprudence from a broad range of other countries to place the matter at hand in an international context. 

Justice Dingake has sometimes delivered decisions that have challenged government actions, for example in a case involving the Speaker of the National Assembly in Botswana he said, “Courts should not readily trespass on the province of Parliament (but) this court should be extremely careful that it does not interpret separation of powers … to deny access to courts and abdicate its role as guardian of the rights of all individuals.”

He has also written of the courts’ “sacred duty” to act in support of the constitution and its values, even when this means criticising the government of the day. His judicial record shows that he holds individuals, the state, customary law, even churches, to the same standard, namely respect for the constitution and for its human rights protections.

We believe that Judge Dingake will be an enormous asset to the judiciary of Papua New Guinea and that his intellect, courage and commitment to human rights will serve them well. We wish him well on this new journey and know that he will do Africa proud.




Motion of No Confidence

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