In an unprecedented turn of events that is likely to cause tension in the judiciary, Justice Isaac Lesetedi of the Court of Appeal has called for administrative action against High Court Judge, Michael Mothobi for delays in delivering judgements.
This follows a matter in which Justice Mothobi sat on a case for more than two years without delivering judgement and about 15 months before he gave reasons for an order he had issued in the same case. ┬áThis was in a matter in which Jamal Trading Company had appealed to the Court of Appeal for an interpretation of an order Mothobi had issued over execution of immovable property of Doves Funeral Parlour.
Delivering judgement over the appeal, Lesetedi said, when the matter was heard at the appeal, both parties complained of slow pace at which Mothobi dealt with the case. He said Jamal Trading Company lawyer asked the court to remit the matter to the High Court if the appeal fails and be allocated to a different judge.
Lesetedi noted that Mothobi stayed for 15 months before furnishing reasons for an order granting leave to appeal.
He said there was need to address complaints by the litigants administratively lest the integrity of the “judiciary be sullied by perceptions of inefficiency.”
Lesetedi said they had been told that the parties have even written complaints to the Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo expressing their concern┬á at the pace at which┬á Motlhobi┬á was handling the matter.
“Before us, it was pointed out, for instance, that although the interdict application was brought on urgency in February 2011, up to date no rule nisi has been issued and that the parties are in a state of uncertainty several years after the dispute arose. If there is merits in these complaints, there is need to address the complaints administratively lest the integrity of the judiciary be sullied by perceptions of inefficiency.”
Lesetedi then ordered that the matter be remitted back to High Court and be placed before another judge so that it may be expeditiously dealt with. He said they were told that both parties are unhappy at the slow pace at which Justice Mothobi dealt with the case.
This is not the first matter in which Mothobi has sat on a case without delivering a judgement. ┬áThere was an urgent application that was heard in May last year in which Tau Grading Construction had taken the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal (PPADB) to court over the impending P550 million Charles Hill-Ncojane road projects. PPADB had cancelled the first tender and then re-advertised the same tender after Tau Grading Construction submitted its tendering documents. The company then approached the High Court on urgency asking for the court to set aside the decision of the PPADB to re-advertise the same tender. ┬áLawyers close to the case have told this publication that the judgement is expected to be delivered end of this month after about seven months.
Speaking at the official opening of the legal year, the chairman of the Law Society of Botswana (LSB), Lawrence Lecha expressed concern over late delivery of judgements; he said the problem refuses to go away.
“In some instances matters that are filed on urgency are heard some days later and when judgement is ultimately ┬ádelivered a further few days or sometimes weeks late, the pronouncement can be that there is no urgency. In our respectful view, a determination on the urgency ought to be delivered immediately to allow parties to explore any other option available to remedy what they deem urgent.”
He said he was happy that it was agreed at the judicial conference that delayed judgements will be listed and the names of judges who delay judgements will be publicised for all to see.