A case in which Gaborone magistrate, Mareledi Dipate, is accused of causing the death of Tumalano Gaabitswe will be presided over by Francistown-based Principal magistrate, Fortune Mukoma, between November 7 and 9, 2007.
Dipate is accused of causing Gaabitswe’s death by dangerous driving and failing to stop. He has pleaded not guilty to the offence, which is alleged to have been committed on Kudumatse Road in Gaborone on June 16, 2005.
Magistrates in Gaborone had, apparently, been reluctant to preside over the matter and that is what led to a decision to bring in a magistrate from outside Gaborone.
Meanwhile, Dipate continues to preside over cases as a magistrate despite the serious charges he is facing and that has been raising eyebrows since many people feel that it was ethically wrong for Dipate to continue presiding over cases, some of which similar to the case he is facing.
One of those who have expressed such a view is a magistrate who preferred anonymity.
“For Dipate to continue presiding over cases is a mockery of justice,” he said. “This can and should have been avoided.”
He said that although it is said that one is presumed not guilty until proven otherwise, in this case, it is very unprofessional for Dipate to continue presiding as a magistrate.
Dipate should have been redeployed, he said, and suggested that he could have been sent to the High Court to carry out administrative duties.
“The right job for him at the moment is at the High Court where he can handle administrative duties,” he said, adding that his continued sitting on the bench might also be offending relatives of the person whose death he is alleged to have caused.
But a lawyer, who also preferred not to give his name, said that he did not see any reason why Dipate should be ordered to leave his practice as a magistrate as this was just an accident and not a crime, like theft, which is done intentionally.
In the past, the Master and Registrar of the High Court, Godfrey Nthomiwa, said that there was nothing that they could do about the issue till they had been notified about his dates of trial.
He, however, confirmed this week that they had been notified about Dipate’s trial dates and that it is now time for him to notify the Judiciary Service Commission which will decide what to do about the issue.
He declined to speculate on what he thought the Commission would say.
“Let’s wait for that,” he said.