This week President Ian Khama implemented a Court of Appeal (CoA) judgement in which veteran attorney, Omphemetse Motumise and Law Society of Botswana (LSB) had challenged him for refusal to appoint Motumise as a High Court Judge.
The LSB and Motumise took the matter to the CoA after the High Court had dismissed his application last year. The two argued that Khama acted irrationally by refusing to give reasons for refusal. On Monday this week, the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi read a disturbing message from Khama on the national broadcaster, Botswana Television (BTV).
In the statement Kgathi repeated the allegations from Khama that he appointed the veteran attorney despite the fact that Motumise was not fit for the bench. Khama through Kgathi failed to provide evidence that Motumise is a security threat or anything as he assumes his new role as the High Court Judge. In other words Kgathi was saying the new Judge lacks credibility.
We all know that Khama was obliged by the CoA judgment to implement its orders. One of the judgements of the CoA was explicit on what should His Excellency do when the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommended an unsuitable person for the position of a Judge. It said he should disclose that evidence to the JSC and not to send Kgathi to BTV to deliver defamatory statement about any candidate.
The damage has been done and Motumise has been appointed the Judge under a cloud of doubt. Khama had ample time to clear the air. But no, he chose to defame Motumise through the BTV. Motumise should certainly sue for serious defamation of character. In fact it was like telling millions of viewers around the world that a person about to be appointed the judge is not fit to be appointed as such.
What an embarrassment by Khama! He is behaving like a cow taken to the slaughterhouse kicking and screaming. A Head of State does not behave like this. This protest was uncalled for and everybody who thinks Khama is a man of integrity after the Monday fiasco needs their head to be examined.
We appeal to Justice Motumise to demand an apology as soon as possible. Kgathi should be forced to go back to BTV to read that apology to the viewers like he did on Monday. If he fails to apologise the Judge must sue both Kgathi and BTV for defamation of character. We also appeal to the leadership at MassMedia Complex to refuse abusive ministers who want to kill the integrity of the public media.
Last week ombudsman Augustine Makgonatsotlhe ruled in favour of the Botswana National Front (BNF) that the BTV was biased against opposition parties. This was in a case in which the BNF complained that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was given undue advantage over others. We thought the BTV has learned from its mistake but it seems they are not aware of the ruling. We know that the leadership at Mass Media Complex are not yet beyond redemption.
"Whilst I am not privy to the reasons why President Khama so strongly feels against Motumise, I can vouch for the gentleman that he is an astute attorney and well versed in the law."
- Owen Nsala