Witchcraft, tribalism in judges' war

Dibotelo and Khama PIC: Kagiso Onkatswitse
Dibotelo and Khama PIC: Kagiso Onkatswitse

The Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo, is considering legal action against the 12 judges who have petitioned the Judicial Service Commission, (JSC) making an array of allegations against him. The judges of the High Court including the suspended four, have accused the Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo of being hell bent on destroying some of his colleagues’ careers.

In a signed petition to the JSC, dated August 17, 2015, the 12 judges, including the suspended four, allege that it was difficult to serve under Dibotelo’s leadership. In terms of the annexure filed on record, the suspended judges: Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang supported by colleagues Michael Leburu, Tshepo Motswagole, Bengbame Sechele, Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe, Barnabas Nyamadzabo, Godfrey Nthomiwa, Lot Moroka and Kholisani Solo demanded an audience with the JSC as a matter of urgency. In the petition, headed, ‘Leadership Crisis In The Judiciary’, the High Court judges allege that among other things, Dibotelo has threatened to destroy careers and would also make defamatory remarks.

The judges made reference to the issue of housing allowance, saying the way it was handled was confirmation enough that Dibotelo intended and had an agenda to destroy the careers of some judges.

“The differential treatment with which the matter of housing allowance has been handled is confirmation of the Chief Justice’s agenda to destroy careers of some judges,” reads the petition in part. The petitioners argue that the housing allowance issue was administrative and could have been handled differently and not referred to the JSC. “Referring such an internal administrative issue first to the JSC and then to the police before he could consult with the affected judges still proves his intent to destroy careers…” they wrote. They further stated that, “The CJ pronounced his intent to destroy careers long before he conveniently convened the JSC to rubber stamp his agenda to destroy careers. We believe he had divulged his intention to the JSC, they would not have rubber stamped his clearly malicious agenda”. The petitioners alleged that the root of the latest developments come from the annual judicial conference of the last week of July 2015 held in Mahalapye, where it was resolved that the judiciary needed resources for continuous training of judicial officers, support staff and key stakeholders.

“The chief justice was aggrieved by the resolution taken by the conference on the issue of training, and that the whole night of July 31, he was continuously fuming about this resolution…

“On the morning at breakfast he was sitting amongst some judges, registrars and administrative staff and continued with his training complaint and then accused some of the judges who were vocal about the training issue, that they have been receiving housing allowance when they were not entitled to and that he would use the issue to destroy careers.”

The judges allege that Dibotelo said he would make sure that they would never assume the position of chief justice on the basis that they were not fit and proper. He was also being accused of threatening to publish the issue of the housing allowance in the newspapers so as to destroy careers and even instructed the Registrar of the High Court, Michael Motlhabi, to submit the list of the judges immediately.

They further wrote, “Following his threat to destroy careers, on August 11, 2015 the four judges received ‘career destroying letters’ apparently issued at the instance of the JSC,” reads the petition. On the slanderous and defamatory comments, the judges said Dibotelo has intense belief in witchcraft and that it disables him from relating with judges and members of staff without suspicion.

“His intense belief in witchcraft disables him from relating with judges and members of staff without suspicion. He persistently says that his traditional doctor informs him that judges and members of staff are bewitching him and that this rainy season lightning will strike with catastrophic effect,” the judges allege.

The judges further alleged that Dibotelo was a racist as he persistently raised objections about the Court of Appeal being led by a white man in Justice Ian Kirby.

“At the height of the judge’s trouble with the law, he made disparaging remarks about the judge’s ethnicity as a predisposition for his troubles.”

The judges pointed out that what they had written on the petition was just a tip of the iceberg as there were other matters not stated because of their extreme sensitivity.

In response to the petition, in a letter dated August 21, 2015, Dibotelo said the judges had made highly defamatory statements about him, which have been published, to the other judges who did not sign the petition letter.

He said that he would be considering legal options in due course.

Michael Motlhabi, the secretary of the JSC, also responded to the judges, that after the consultation, members of JSC agreed that it would not be appropriate to meet with them in regard to issues raised in the petition while the investigations by the police were pending.

Editor's Comment
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