Garekwe’s legal journey to the top


Dedicated, hardworking, brilliant and cooperative are some adjectives that describe Tapologo Mercy Garekewe. Born into a family of seven in Pilikwe in the Central district, Garekwe is a recent new addition to the bench of the Court of Appeal.

The lady, who many describe also as extraordinaire, is the second female to ascend to the highest court in the land. She served as a High Court judge for close to 10 years. Garekwe's journey in the world of educational enlightenment started off at primary school in her home village from 1974 to 1980, then junior school to Cambridge Ordinary Level at Moeng college from 1981 to 1985. She then went for national service,Tirelo Sechaba in 1986 at Takatokwane village. Justice Garekwe graduated with an LLB degree from the University of Botswana. She later went on to acquire a Master of Laws degree from Georgetown University, Washington DC in the United States of America.

Her programme of study focused on International Human Rights Law, International Trade, Comparative Constitutional Law and International Business Transactions from 2002 to 2003. Additional to her qualifications, she has done a Post-Graduate Certificate in International Human Rights Law in Vienna, Austria. At the High Court of Botswana (Lobatse division), her duties included presiding over diverse civil, commercial, criminal, matrimonial and other matters as a justice of the first instance; presiding over appeals from the Customary Court of Appeal; the Land Tribunal and the Magistrate Courts and also sitting at the Court of Appeal as an Acting Justice of Appeal. Justice Garekwe also served in private practice for 19 years during which time she was the sole proprietor of M.T. Garekwe Attorneys from May 2000 to March 2011. She worked as a part-time lecturer in the Department of Law at the University of Botswana from 2009 to 2011.

She serves as a member of the Council of the International Women Judges Forum, and was the Law Society of Botswana founder member and secretary of the Botswana Association for Women Lawyers; drafted and registered the constitution of the Botswana Council for Non-Governmental Organisations; drafted and registered the Notarial Deed of Trust of the Botswana Media Consultative Council. She is also a trustee of the Botswana Law Society Fidelity Fund. She also served as UNDP consultant for Botswana government. Her duties included a review of the Botswana National Policy on Women in Development and the drafting of the Botswana National Policy on Gender and Development. Her former teacher at Moeng College, Mosimanegape 'Marx' Mophuting from 1981 to 1984 said Garekwe was a brilliant student during her time as a student.

“I was her history and geography teacher and she did exceptionally well in her studies. During that time, Moeng college had the best students from 1981 to 1985. She is a creative and critical thinker and I am not shocked that she has built her name that far. She deserves to be in the position she is in now. Again, she was a well-behaved student and steadfast. Even during the time when she was an attorney, Garekwe presented herself well, infact being very professional and very articulate when it comes to issues,” Mophuting said in an interview on Wednesday. Her former schoolmate from 1981 to 1985, Joseph Balise also described Garekwe as a brilliant lady who can think outside the box.

“Yes, we were together in a debating group at Moeng College. She is quiet and very reserved. In life, she has been doing well but she was not that famous. Many people were not aware of her until the 2019 Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) petitions when she was part of the bench. She is an independent thinker and I believe that she will do well even in her newly appointed position. Again she is a good listener,” Balise said.

An attorney Busang Manewe said, “the appointment of Garekwe to the Court of Appeal is most refreshing news worthy of being celebrated. I have known her over the years as both a lawyer and a judge and I have no doubt that she makes the grade for her new appointment. She is highly competent, robust, efficient, fearless, firm, courteous and a shrewd jurist. I have no doubt she was not appointed on the gender card as she is highly competent as a professional in her own right. She qualifies to sit in any court of appeal in the commonwealth. I doubt there is any lawyer who would hold a divergent view regarding Garekwe’s technical competence and abilities.”

He said as a lawyer, one always wishes to appear before a judicial officer who has a thorough understanding of the law and how it works so that one can engage at the highest intellectual level. In addition, Manewe said it is always disastrous to appear before someone lacking in technical competence. He continued: “Garekwe was one such a judge that you would look forward to appearing before. You are certain she has a solid understanding of the law and even if you disagree with her, and I have disagreed with her a few times, you would respect her reasoning.” A board member of Gender Links, Chigedze Chinyepi said as Gender Links they are happy with the decision by President Mokgweetsi Masisi to promote women to the Court of Appeal.

“Court of Appeal is mostly dominated by men and we are happy that the number of women is slowly increasing and we have hope that the President will promote another deserving woman to that rank. We are happy about the representation of women as they are penetrating the legal fraternity,” Chinyepi said. She said Garekwe has a clear record that speaks for itself hence she deserved to be promoted to the Court of Appeal.

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