Newsmaker of the year - Judges suspension: Litmus test to our democracy

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Arguably the suspension of four High Court Judges by President Ian Khama was not only a test to our stable democracy but the most shocking news story in Botswana ever.

 

Never has it happened since independence in 1966 that separation of powers between the Executive and Judiciary would be tested to that limit. The suspension of Justices Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang brought the Judiciary into paralysis as about 1, 200 files were affected by the suspension of the quartet until the matter is resolved.
Each one of them has a minimum of 300 active files that would need to be managed and/or reallocated amongst the remaining Gaborone and Lobatse judges thus rendering their already heavy workload impossible. Recently Khama acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) appointed three acting Judges and another substantive Judge would be appointed in January 2016.
Matters came to head when Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo reported his four colleagues to the police for investigation for alleged criminal offences. This was over the issue of housing allowance, which was paid to some judges who stay in official residences though it is only meant for judges without such residences.
The judges said they considered the CJ’s letter referring a simple matter of an administrative lapse on the part of the AoJ or its accounting officer to the police as highly defamatory in the civil and criminal sense. The matter did not stop there as 12 Judges later petitioned the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) making an array of allegations against Dibotelo.
The Judges including the suspended four accused Dibotelo of being hell bent on destroying some of his colleagues’ careers. In a signed petition the 12 judges, including the suspended four, alleged that it was difficult to serve under Dibotelo’s leadership. Among other things, they alleged he was a racist and that he had strong believes in witchcraft.
The Chief Justice was considering legal action against the 12 judges.
Three Judges Kholisani Solo, Barnabas Nyamadzabo and Bengbame Sechele later apologised to Dibotelo and withdrew their signatures from the petition. Khama responded by suspending the four judges and set a tribunal to investigate an alleged misconduct against the Judges. Khama said the decision to suspend the four was constitutional and therefore not reversible.
In his affidavit filed in court Khama said: “I have a discretion under the constitution to suspend the applicants pending finalisation of the investigations to be carried out by the Tribunal which I have set up in terms of the provisions of the constitution. As far as the discretion in me is concerned, I submit that I exercised that discretion duly, properly and lawfully therefore the courts should dismiss the application”.
Since the Judges had challenged their suspension in court their lawsuit was dismissed. Justice Tebogo Tau ruled in favour of Khama saying the President has powers to suspend the four and appoint a tribunal to probe them.
This case first reported by Mmegi is undeniably the biggest earth-shattering story out of this republic that is regarded as Africa’s beacon of democracy. How the saga would be resolved we are yet to find out.

Never has it happened since independence in 1966 that separation of powers between the Executive and Judiciary would be tested to that limit. The suspension of Justices Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang brought the Judiciary into paralysis as about 1, 200 files were affected by the suspension of the quartet until the matter is resolved.

Each one of them has a minimum of 300 active files that would need to be managed and/or reallocated amongst the remaining Gaborone and Lobatse judges thus rendering their already heavy workload impossible. Recently Khama acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) appointed three acting Judges and another substantive Judge would be appointed in January 2016.


Matters came to head when Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo reported his four colleagues to the police for investigation for alleged criminal offences. This was over the issue of housing allowance, which was paid to some judges who stay in official residences though it is only meant for judges without such residences.

The judges said they considered the CJ’s letter referring a simple matter of an administrative lapse on the part of the AoJ or its accounting officer to the police as highly defamatory in the civil and criminal sense. The matter did not stop there as 12 Judges later petitioned the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) making an array of allegations against Dibotelo.

The Judges including the suspended four accused Dibotelo of being hell bent on destroying some of his colleagues’ careers. In a signed petition the 12 judges, including the suspended four, alleged that it was difficult to serve under Dibotelo’s leadership. Among other things, they alleged he was a racist and that he had strong believes in witchcraft.
The Chief Justice was considering legal action against the 12 judges.

Three Judges Kholisani Solo, Barnabas Nyamadzabo and Bengbame Sechele later apologised to Dibotelo and withdrew their signatures from the petition. Khama responded by suspending the four judges and set a tribunal to investigate an alleged misconduct against the Judges. Khama said the decision to suspend the four was constitutional and therefore not reversible.

In his affidavit filed in court Khama said: “I have a discretion under the constitution to suspend the applicants pending finalisation of the investigations to be carried out by the Tribunal which I have set up in terms of the provisions of the constitution. As far as the discretion in me is concerned, I submit that I exercised that discretion duly, properly and lawfully therefore the courts should dismiss the application”.

Since the Judges had challenged their suspension in court their lawsuit was dismissed. Justice Tebogo Tau ruled in favour of Khama saying the President has powers to suspend the four and appoint a tribunal to probe them.
This case first reported by Mmegi is undeniably the biggest earth-shattering story out of this republic that is regarded as Africa’s beacon of democracy. How the saga would be resolved we are yet to find out.

 

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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