Judiciary crippled as judges go to war

It has emerged that about 1,200 files would be affected by the suspension of four judges until the matter is resolved in December.

In his founding affidavit filed in court Wednesday, one of the suspended judges, Justice Key Dingake, revealed that each one of them has a minimum of 300 active files. Dingake said this translates to 1,200 files that would need to be managed and/or reallocated among the remaining Gaborone and Lobatse judges thus rendering their already heavy workload impossible.

Recently, President Ian Khama suspended four judges: Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang and appointed a tribunal to inquire into their conduct.

On Wednesday the four filed an urgent application to interdict the sitting of the tribunal. They also want their suspensions set aside.

Dingake said their suspension prejudices members of the public and litigants whose matters are before them. A number of these matters have already been heard and are awaiting judgment. “Other matters have been set down for the coming weeks and we had already begun our preparation for the hearings. These matters will be delayed or postponed, as we will have to hand over our notes and files to our colleagues. The magnitude of this disruption and delay must not be underestimated,” he said.

He continued: “None of us is able to carry out any of our duties, which includes writing outstanding judgments and delivering them. Some matters have judgments pending and these shall not be handed down within the time anticipated. In addition, when a lengthy period of time elapses between the completion of a case and the writing of the judgment, it becomes increasing more difficult to remember the facts and circumstances of the case thus rendering it almost impossible to deliver a fair judgment. The harm is, to all intents and purposes, irreparable for the litigants involved”.

Motivating for the urgent application, he said each day he is suspended, his reputation and standing as the judge continues to suffer. The fact that he is suspended creates the impression that the charges against him have substance. Ultimately, the suspension creates the perception that he is guilty and corrupt. “The same argument applies with equal force to my co-applicants.” He also said their suspension and the publicity that surrounds it, creates the perception that the judiciary lacks independence from the executive. “This erodes public confidence in the judiciary. It is imperative that this perception be speedily dispelled.”

He also said the matter raises important and weighty constitutional matters of great import in a democracy such as Botswana’s.

“Matters of this nature can also not await a hearing in due course and need to be addressed and adjudicated upon with expediency having due regard to their impact on the country as a whole.” 

Dingake submitted that the suspension has undermined their freedom to engage in productive work, which are an important component of human dignity and consequently their sense of self-esteem and self worth.

“The suspension has far reaching adverse social and personal implications and has attracted negative perception by the community around which we live.”

Editor's Comment
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