High Court Judges last Friday threatened to sue government saying their independence was being sacrificed. This, they say, is because the Executive wants to decide the kind of cars they must drive and what conditions of service should be implemented.
The bone of contention is that the 26 High Court Judges are demanding to be bought BMW 5 Series while the government has settled for Volvo S60. The 26 BMWs, which were to be procured from Capital BMW go for P19,5million collectively, or P750,000 each, while the Volvo S60 from Barloworld fetch P490,000 each or P12,740,000 for 26 units.
On November 15, 2017 the Registrar and Master of the High Court, Michael Motlhabi wrote to the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi requesting for approval to procure BMW 5 Series for High Court Judges. “We have requested to procure a standard vehicle for all Judges and their preferred vehicle being BMW 5 Series. They are currently using S60 Volvo sedans.
“The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications has earlier responded by saying that the Presidential Directive CAB 31 (B)/2007 stipulates that BMW 740 and 730 Series are for Honourable Ministers and Assistant Ministers. Despite that and we agree to that, but our request was not for BMW 7 Series but rather BMW 5 Series.
We therefore seek authority from your office to procure BMW 5 Series to replace boarded Honourable Judges vehicles (Volvo S60),” Motlhabi wrote. On December 7, 2017 Motlhabi wrote a similar letter to the PS in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Segakweng Tsiane saying pursuant to the recommendations on the Judges Book of Pay Privileges and Benefits, consideration for the upgrade was
“We can afford to procure six BMW 5 Series before end of this financial year, and procurement will be done incrementally over the years until all the Judges are covered.”
Responding to Motlhabi on February 2, 2018, Tsiane reminded him of the Cabinet Directive on the matter issued in 2015. “You will recall that the directive was clear on the type of vehicles to be procured for the Honourable Judges of the High Court, which was Volvo S60 cars and not BMW 5 Series. I was further directed to remind you that as an accounting officer you are expected to facilitate implementation of government agreed policies and budget,” Tsiane responded. It seems Tsiane’s response rubbed the Judges the wrong way.
They responded by summoning Minister Shaw Kgathi and his PS to the High Court for a meeting last Friday where all the Judges were in attendance. Led by Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, all the Judges spoke strongly in support of equity and judicial independence. “The High Court Judges felt they were discriminated against in favour of Court of Appeal (CoA)Judges who were given the BMWs,” a source said.
They also reminded Kgathi that they too were members of the CoA by operation of law. After they threatened to sue government over the issue the minister pleaded with them not to go that route and promised to take up the issue with Cabinet on Wednesday.