The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) this week called on Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo to resign following the controversial suspension of four judges.
President Ian Khama suspended Justices Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang, over allegations that they undermined the authority of Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo and brought the judiciary into disrepute.
The Unions Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said this week “we ask Mr. Maruping Dibotelo to help restore the dignity of the judiciary by immediately tendering his resignation. The country deserves a Chief Justice with tact, who is level-headed and is able to provide some leadership. The judiciary is far too important to administer using methods and tactics that are more suited for running a peasant’s cattle post.”
Motshegwa said when the head of the judiciary connives with the Executive to remove judges of the High Court in order to facilitate a packing of the judiciary with timid souls who are unable to speak out against wrongs committed by the Executive against the people, we all have every reason to be concerned.
“The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (“BOFEPUSU”) is deeply saddened by the dark cloud that has engulfed the judiciary over the last several… days. It has eroded the little confidence that the people still had in the judiciary. It will only serve to deepen the case backlog which the Chief Justice has shown himself too powerless to deal with,” said Motshegwa.
Calling on Dibotelo to resign as Chief Justice, Motshegwa said the former can no longer be trusted to uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, safeguard the independence of the judiciary and preserve its integrity.
“His penchant for petty gossip, lack of tact and sophistication, has resulted in what was a purely administrative matter being elevated to a criminal matter, and then an enquiry into the fitness of judges who have served the country impeccably and administered justice without fear or favour,” said Motshegwa. He said under Maruping’s leadership of the Judicial Service Commission (“JSC”), political acceptability to the Executive has become the main criterion for appointment to the judiciary. This is a position that the Chief Justice has shamelessly defended.
“Mr. Dibotelo has over the last several years presided over the rot of the judiciary. He has done more to tarnish the reputation of the judiciary than any other person. He ought to have resigned last year when he falsely accused his colleagues of being corrupt,” said Motshegwa.
He said Maruping had failed to provide intellectual leadership at the bench, and cannot boast of a single judgment that he has delivered since he became Chief Justice that has advanced the frontiers of legal reasoning.
“Rather than inspire his colleagues through legal writing he has resorted to purging judges who have displayed keen interest in the development of our jurisprudence,” said Motshegwa. Recently JSC Secretary Michael Motlhabi, in a statement said “… the decision to refer the issue of wrongful payment and receipt of housing allowance for an independent investigation was that of the Judicial Service Commission as a whole, taken unanimously in good faith after a lengthy and searching debate. It was not, as suggested, a decision taken by the Chief Justice alone.”
Motlhabi added that “It should be noted that the JSC is charged with protecting the integrity of the Judiciary and of the Administration of Justice. In terms of the internal Audit Report the alleged payments concerned total in excess of P800, 000, and this was considered to be a matter that could not be adequately resolved internally.”
Khama has since appointed a Tribunal to inquire into the conduct of four Judges. The tribunal consists of Justice Criag Howie, Chairperson (Former President of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal, and current member of Botswana Court of Appeal), Justice John Foxcroft (Former Judge of the Cape Supreme Court (South Africa), and current member of the Botswana Court of Appeal; and Justice Isaac Lesetedi (Former High Court Judge and current member of the Botswana Court of Appeal).
The Tribunal commenced its work on 1st September 2015 and is expected to present its report to the President by 1st December. Maruping reported the quartet to the police after they received housing allowance which they are reported to have not been entitled to. They later called for his impeachment.