I am honoured today to introduce our 9th Beatty Jurist in Residence, the Honourable Justice Professor Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake, of Gaborone, Botswana.
We are privileged indeed that Justice Dingake was willing to travel halfway across the world, enduring a trip of over 24 hours in the air and a temperature change of more than 80o Fahrenheit, to serve as our Jurist in Residence.
Justice Dingake is considered one of the intellectual leaders of the judiciary not only in his home country of Botswana, but also throughout the African Continent. He received his LLB from the University of Botswana, his LLM from the University of London, and his PhD from the University of Cape Town.
He is a true intellectual, having written seven books, numerous articles and book chapters, and hundreds of judicial opinions.
In addition, he is recognised as a leader amongst the African judiciary. He has served as the President of the Africa Judges Forum on HIV, Human Rights, and the Law, as leadership positions in the Africa Judges and Jurists Forum, the Africa Centre for Justice Innovation, the Judicial Commission on the Financial Independence of the Judiciary in Botswana, and the Rules Amendment Committee of the Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone.
He began his career as a practising attorney and became a partner at the law firm of Moupo, Motswagole and Dingake. He simultaneously served as a lecturer at the Botswana University Faculty of Law, from 1993-2000. He has also been a guest lecturer at the International Development Law Institute in Rome, Italy and at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
He was recently appointed as an adjunct professor of law at James Cook University in North Queensland, Australia.
He began his judicial career in 2002 as a judge of the Industrial Court of Botswana, a specialised court dealing with labour matters. At that time, he was a PhD candidate in Constitutional Law at the University of Cape Town. In order to serve on the Labour Court without losing his place in the PhD programme, he had to promise the Vice Chancellor of the university that he would serve his term on the court and still finish his PhD on time—a goal he accomplished.
After serving on the Industrial Court, he was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Botswana, a court of general jurisdiction equivalent in prestige to a United States District Court. In that capacity, he developed a reputation as the intellectual
He was responsible for some of the most significant constitutional judgements in Botswana history, including cases that garnered international attention. Two of them bear brief mention. In the case of the Attorney General and Others v. Mwale, he ruled that the Botswana Constitution required the provision of anti-retro-viral drugs for the treatment of HIV to non-citizen prisoners held in Botswana prisons; the case was upheld by the Court of Appeal, the highest court in Botswana.
Another significant case was The Case of Mmusi and Others v. Ramantele and Others, in which he ruled that the Botswana Constitution required invalidation of a long-standing customary law tradition that prevented women from inheriting their parents’ dwelling house, regardless of birth order, in favour of the last-born son of the parents.
Because of his ruling in this case, he received the 2013 Bronze Gavel Award from Women’s Link Worldwide for promoting gender justice.
While serving on the Botswana High Court, he was appointed in 2013 by the Secretary General of the United Nations to serve as a Judge of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone, a court established to prosecute persons responsible for violations of International Humanitarian Law. He continues to serve in that capacity today.
He retired from the Botswana High Court in January 2018 to accept an appointment as a Judge of the Supreme and National Courts of Papua New Guinea.
On his CV, he lists his mission as “Expeditious delivery of justice without fear, favour, or ill-will.”
I reached out to a distinguished senior attorney in Gaborone, Botswana, to see what insights she might be able to add about him. Here’s how she described him:
Champion of the rule of law, fierce protector of human rights, protector of the underdog, not afraid to speak his mind even when it goes against the mainstream, has never lost the human touch, exceptionally able to relate to people at all levels,believes in himself and inspirational.
We are about to see in person just how inspirational he can be. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our Beatty Jurist in Residence, Justice Key Dingake.
*Dingake was giving a lecture on Gender Discrimination in Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights – The Role of the Judiciary in Southern Africa at University of South Illinois, United States of America recently