Justice Kebonang: The nightmare and joy


By chance, a figure I greet as I enter the gates of the Broadhurst High Court premises is none other than Justice, Dr Zein Kebonang. He is headed towards the direction of the BBS Mall market, as he said, to fetch himself some “Mogodu le Magwinya”.

I quipped, to advise him to send messengers for such errands instead of a Judge of the High Court being seen buying cheap pickings at the market. “I prefer doing it myself and interact with people,” Justice Kebonang hits back softly and unapologetically as he crosses the road to the direction of the aroma of the mid morning Magwinya le Mogodu.

Minutes later, I learn from members of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) gathered inside the courtyard and who had come to the court with the hope of an interdict against the rule nisi issued by the same judge the previous day that they are still waiting for “Justice Zein” to return and start their case once he is done with his mogodu and magwinya breakfast. Almost two hours later, I pick some ululations from the hopeful crowd, “O a tsena Zein!”, pointing to the figure of the judge as he walks through the gates from his street breakfast mission .

It would be more than a breakfast break however as the matter before Justice Kebonang did not start until after lunch break. Disappointment for the BOPEU crowd which had been waiting with hope since morning. Obtaining an order of the court ex parte is usually punishable if it is shown that the party that secured the order did so fraudulently or without disclosing all material facts to the court, or to the lawyer. This is initially how sure the BOPEU party led by Masego Mogwera and attorney Dutch Leburu was when it appeared before Justice Kebonang early that morning, unbeknown to it and the crowd that the matter would drag into the afternoon and into the night, with no direction.

The Mogwera’s were so sure that by presenting themselves as an interested party, as well as presenting the new Justice Mercy Garekwe’s ruling, and the new change of leadership approved by the Registrar of Trade Unions, that would be enough proof for Justice Kebonang to withdraw his rule nisi and tread on the matter with caution, and possibly hit the other party with penalties for misleading the court.

Not Justice Kebonang. He saw things differently to the cheers of the BOPEU camp led by Monakwe, and to the utter dismay of Mogwera and followers. Justice Kebonang that day refused the interdict sought by the Mogweras, arguing that despite all what was said, Mogwera only had notice of motion and therefore, court couldn’t make a ruling on the basis of a notice of motion.

By that time it was almost night time, Mogwera’s attorney, Dutch Leburu looking shocked as Justice Kebonang stood from his seat to walk away.

Gabriel Kanjabanga raised his hands fists flinched to celebrate his moment. Awkwardly there was no single member of the Monakwe faction in court by that time to help attorney, Kanjabanga with the celebrations.

Earlier during the arguments there were glimpses of a win-win situation when Justice Kebonang told the two parties to resolve the matter amongst themselves and tell him what they had decided. “I am going out for a walk, when I come back you should have reached an agreement on the way forward,” Justice Kebonang said as the two camps’ attorneys failed to find each other on the issue of the temporary operation of the bank account.

Minutes later, Mogwera’s camp would return with its proposal. There was no proposal from the rival faction because its lawyer, Gabriel Kanjabanga said he could not locate his clients and he was not willing to take decisions on their behalf.

From the judge’s line of questioning, it was clear attorney Kanjabanga was having a torrid day. The winner? Mogwera? No! Justice Kebonang gave it all to the Monakwes, at least for the time being.

It would seem the Monakwe camp’s unavailability to discuss a compromise solution with its rival was enough to save it in a big way. Justice Kebonang gave the faction the powers to transact on the BOPEU’s bank account without the authority of president Mogwera, at least temporarily. Justice Kebonang had stunned one camp, he had brought so much joy to the other camp. The day was not going well for the Mogweras.

It was a fantastic one for the Monakwes especially his general secretary and deputy, Rash Sedimo and Phillemon Zibani who looked like they were not going to have their monthly salaries that month, especially with the coming into effect of Justice Garekwe’s judgement that nullified the duo’s positions. The Mogweras were not only rattled by Justice Kebonang’s choice of path, they were displeased.

They would later withdraw their interdict application, opting to pursue only the joinder application; a subtle protest at the judge, perhaps. The two BOPEU parties appear before Justice Dr Kebonang once again this Friday to argue the application for the reopening of the union’s standard chattered Bank account, where each of the two parties will be attempting to show the court why they should be believed as the rightful signatories.

For the Mogweras, the frustrations and sour experiences of recent days will be playing at the back of their minds while the Monakwes’ memorable and sweet experiences like the rule nisi, and the opponent’s failure to interdict the rule nisi, as well as other favourable outcomes they enjoyed last time out, are enough testimony that against the odds they can hope to still get something out. This is Justice Kebonang afterall, a judge who is not afraid to wreak havoc here, and excite there.

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