Saturday, September 25, 2021

After al-Bashir win, Wits litigation centre goes after Khama

What is now unofficially known as the “Motumise case” is getting active support from a regional litigation centre which almost put Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir behind, bars were it not for the fact that the latter has powerful friends in high places.

Through its Regional Advocacy Programme, the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) which is based at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, “works with African regional mechanisms, including the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to further human rights and rule of law in southern Africa.” Through its litigation support function, the Centre got to be involved in a matter in which the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) is suing the state over the manner in which High Court judges are appointed.

LSB is suing President Ian Khama for rejecting the JSC recommendation that attorney Omphemetse Motumise should be appointed High Court judge. Khama disregarded that recommendation, prompting the LSB to launch a legal challenge that will be heard by a panel of three judges: Justices Abednico Tafa, Singh Walia and Phadi Solomon. LSB and Motumise are the applicants while Khama, JSC and the Attorney General are cited in that order as respondents. The applicants want the court to set aside Khama’s decision not to appoint Motumise.

According to Lawrence Lecha, the Chairman of the LSB Council, the SALC has engaged an advocate on behalf of the Society. This advocate is working with the Society’s own attorneys. The Centre offered to engage the advocate and Lecha’s understanding is that if there are any costs at all to be borne for this service, the Society will not pay a thebe.

In the not-too-distant past, SALC teamed up with the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and AIDS (BONELA) to successfully challenge the Botswana government’s policy of refusing HIV treatment to non-citizen prisoners all the way to the Court of Appeal. When al-Bashir attended an African Union summit in South Africa three months ago, the Centre filed papers at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria seeking to bar him from leaving the country while hearings to determine the fate of the International Criminal Court arrest warrant were held. While this application was successful and it had almost looked like the end of the road for the Sudanese president, the host (President Jacob Zuma) intervened in a manner whose lawfulness is being challenged. Disregarding the court order, Zuma made secret arrangements for al-Bashir to leave the country.

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