District Commissioners to cease being judicial officers
by Calistus Bosaletswe
The government is moving swiftly to take away the District Commissioners judicial powers amid allegations that they were pardoning accused persons convicted at customary courts around the country.
The District Commissioners who are facing the axe were appointed by the Chief Justice as magistrates to review customary courts verdict.
Their appointment by the Chief Justice as judicial officers was meant to ensure that the right procedures were followed when prosecuting the accused at the customary courts.
The Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse, confirmed in an interview that the government intends to take away the District Commissioners responsibilities as judicial officers.
The minister admitted that a decision to take away the District Commissioners’ judicial powers comes at a time when there is an outcry about their decisions to pardon accused persons after they are convicted at customary courts.
Seretse said that the District Commissioners were appointed by the Chief Justice who gave them judicial powers to review cases that go through the customary courts.
He also explained that their responsibility was meant to protect the rights of the accused persons who are prosecuted before the customary courts. Seretse noted that the District Commissioners were appointed as Magistrates to review cases that were before the customary courts.
“He could reduce sentences or discharge people who had been convicted because they were not fairly prosecuted; he could find out if the accused had a right to be heard,” added Seretse.
The minister further explained that there are reports that some of the District Commissioners were going beyond their duties, pardoning people who had been convicted at the customary courts.
He, however, could not divulge who would replace the DCs after the government takes away their powers.
He said that he was working with the Minister of Local Government, Peter Siele, to fast tract the amendment of the District Commissioners’ responsibilities with the sole aim to take away the powers that are vested on them by the Chief Justice.
When quizzed on why he failed to bring up the issue when presenting the Local Government Bill, which was passed before parliament in the last parliamentary sitting, Siele explained that they were still consulting with different stakeholders.
He promised that he might bring up the bill when parliament resumes next year.