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Tribute to our justice system

KGOSIETSILE NGAKAAGAE
In a country riddled with weak and captured oversight institutions, the justice system is the sole refuge of those fleeing persecution by the mighty and the powerful.

Its authority lies not in the use of coercive power, but in the social contract. Alone, the justice system,  is the arbiter of truth.

Its  word is acceptably the last in every argument between private persons and between the State and private persons.  As often said, the Courts are the great levellers of all human inequality. Status, wealth, and all, are checked at the door. The justice system is the law, and because it is wrong for any person including government to be above the law, it must properly rank as the most esteemed of the three arms of government.

It is instructive that even presidents are sworn into office by the justice system.  It is further instructive that only the justice system is empowered by law to decree the taking of life. Such is the respect bestowed upon this institution, all for the right reasons. Such is the reason why those in it and those connected to it can claim to be ministers in the temple of justice.

Because of its all important function, the justice system must stay above reproach. Matters of politics and the economy, generally generate conflict between private parties, and between private parties and the State.

For that reason alone, the justice system has a unique vulnerability. Its soul is the coveted trophy of every government. Nothing brings more contentions in the USA than nominations to their Supreme Court. The justice system deserves protection from all citizens. Most importantly, it deserves protection from those who work within it, especially, lawyers and judicial officers.

For all the trust bestowed upon them, those recruited to serve in the esteemed offices of the magistracy and Judgeship, owe the public a sacred duty to render themselves worthy of their office. It is difficult to imagine an office that demands more trust and honesty, than judicial office. It is for that reason that even systems that are fashioned for their recruitment, ordinarily demand greater moral standing than would be required for ordinary government offices.

It must be mentioned, again, that the justice system, is the bedrock of our democracy. It is for the singular reason that citizens have faith in their justice system, that they desist from taking the law into their own hands and accept to place their grievances in the hands of magistrates and judges.  When magistrates and Judges betray this scared trust, national security is threatened as the public lack an outlet, for fair adjudication of their grievances.

It is on account of their special circumstances, that members of the Judiciary, especially at the High Court level, where the most weighty matters of the state

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are adjudicated, will forever be within the sights of the executive. The only power the executive does not hold, is such as is constitutionally bestowed on the justice system. That is so, because the executive literally outnumbers the ruling party backbench in parliament, and thus dominate the legislative sphere. Again, in protest, the opposition almost always walk out on voting to avoid legitimizing wrongdoing. The Executive,  is jealous of such power. Politicians will not waste an effort to capture the judiciary. It is for that reason, in Botswana, that the proceedings of the Judicial Service Commission remain secret against international best practice. It is for the same reason that most of the commission members,  are  appointed or confirmed, by politicians. It is or the same reason, that Judges, mainly, get whatever they want with regards to their conditions of service.

It would be foolhardy, though, to delude ourselves that the offices abovemenoned, invariably live up to their bidding. Having practiced law for 20 years, I have seen the beauty of our system in motion. Again, I have seen, horror. I have said it before, that a lawyer’s satisfaction is not in whether he is upheld or overruled. It is in the knowledge that whatever the outcome, the judicial officer applied his mind truthfully and conscionably to the law and the facts. Disappointment is part and parcel of our trade. It is judicial dishonesty, that’s hurts. Inversely, though, it is the same that strengthens every lawyer’s resolve to stand up for justice. Maybe justice  owes its existence to injustice, after all.

There are free Judges and captured Judges. There are Judges who are there purely, judicial hitmen for the Executive.  Lawyers know them, and discuss them in hushed tones. They are never mentioned openly, for fear of the laws of contempt. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of their Lordships are honest people. For that we can always be proud of our judicial system. I have no doubt we have a future with it. As in every case, it is in order  to deal with bad apples on the go.

Over the last decade, the judiciary has suffered crushing pressures mainly exerted from the Executive. We have seen their lordships stand tall,  and  abide by their oaths. Recently, I looked into the eyes of a Judge who I knew, had ever desire in him to convict. The facts left him no choice though. Against every inclination inside him, he acquitted. I left the courtroom, not pleased that justice has been done. I left, pleased that justice still resides in our courts. Justice, according to law.



Chief On Friday

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