CJ defends judges

Rannowane PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Rannowane PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

Chief Justice (CJ) Terence Rannowane has strongly defended judges from personal attacks dished out by members of the public. Rannowane warned members of the public to refrain from attacking judges in the private press and on social media platforms. Speaking at the opening of the Legal Year on Tuesday, the CJ said attacks on judges is a form of intimidation and must be discouraged.

“Judges cannot defend themselves; they cannot go to a freedom square and start speaking on attacks. In this context, I wish to request members of the public to refrain from attacking judges in the private press and social media platforms. This is a form of intimidation and must be discouraged particularly as judges do not have a platform to defend themselves,” he said. Rannowane explained that in mature democracies such as ours which adhere to the doctrine of separation of powers, a proper understanding of the role of the judiciary provides basis for public oversight of judicial work. He noted that a good understanding informs meaningful comments or views of court decisions and enables constructive suggestions that may help improve the system while on the other hand an inaccurate, incomplete or misconceived role of the judiciary is often a basis for inappropriate criticism of court decisions, sometimes even personal attacks against judicial officers. Rannowane emphasised that this results in intimidation of judges and that it should not be encouraged to continue happening as it undermines the independence of the judiciary. He innticated that the primary role of the judiciary is therefore, to uphold the rule of law and administer justice in accordance with the law and the Constitution. “The judges’ oath of office requires judges to apply the law faithfully without fear or favour or ill will. Personal beliefs or political bias should not be allowed to influence the decision-making process,” said CJ. The CJ explained that the judiciary’s main function is to promote peaceful resolution of disputes in the courts and to adjudicate over cases thereby contributing to the maintenance of peace and tranquillity. He pointed out that the judiciary is also the upholder of the rule of law by ensuring that there is compliance with the Constitution of Botswana by all the branches of the government thus, the role of the judiciary is core to the democratic governance of the nation. “I may add that, our judicial system provides for a hierarchical appeal process that enables it to quality assure its decision making based on the subsisting set of laws,” he said. On the performance of courts, Rannowane said they strive for a clean judiciary in which judicial officers constantly comport themselves to dignify the Administration of Justice and earn the confidence and respect of the public. He pointed out that they always maintain an independent, responsive, clean, modern and efficient Judiciary that is accountable to the public in its pursuit of a society in which the rule of law prevails. “It is gratifying to note with satisfaction that according to the latest World Justice Project Report released on October 25, 2023, Botswana has the best criminal justice system in Africa and amongst the best in the world. The report indicated that Botswana has the third best civil justice system in Africa following after Rwanda and Namibia,” he said.

Rannowane further noted that the report also indicated that Botswana recorded an improvement in both its criminal and civil justice system and that it ranked in terms of criminal justice system number 32 out of 142 countries in the world. “It is worthy of note that the world justice project is an independent, multidisciplinary organisation working to advance the rule of law world-wide. We have compiled a comprehensive booklet on statistical information on all the courts,” Rannowane said. On litigants choosing judges they want, Rannowane said it was regrettable to note palpable incidents of forum shopping where litigants traverse vast distances to register their cases not at the forum of convenience where parties are ordinarily resident, but to seek judges of their choice. He explained that the practice impact negatively on the professional image and integrity of our judiciary and must be discouraged. "My office will shortly commence engagements through relevant structures with a view to sensitively finding solutions on the issue," he said In conclusion, Rannowane touched on the 2024 upcoming General Election and took the opportunity to urge political parties to set up strong internal dispute resolution structures to obviate the need to rely on the courts to do so for them. “History has shown that no matter how objective and impartial the courts are in adjudicating over political cases, there are always accusations of bias levelled against courts,” he lastly said.

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