Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) on Monday called upon Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo to take responsibility for the loss of confidence in the Judiciary by tendering his resignation.
The Union added that in his resigning Dibotelo must take with him Dr Justice Kholisani Solo who recently pledged his allegiance to President Ian Khama.
In a confidential letter, Justice Solo said he remained indebted to President Ian Khama who came to his rescue during a moment of despair.
He was writing to apologise to Chief Justice and also to President Khama for having been part of a petition that saw four judges suspended.
Another Judge, Barnabas Nyamazabo also wrote to withdraw from the petition and also offer apologies.
He said he got associated with the petition as a result of what he called “group think.”
The behaviour of these judges has shocked the public who are in turn calling for their resignation.
BOPEU president Andrew Motsamai on Monday told journalists that if Justice Solo does not resign by the close of the week the Union will compel President Khama, to evoke Section 97 of the constitution and set up a tribunal to enquire into his fitness to continue holding office.
The Union is of the view that the judiciary is too far an important institution to be left to the whims of a divisive old man who is clearly seen his best years behind him.
The Union expressed doubt about the independence of the Judiciary under Justice Dibotelo.
“We doubt that there is utmost respect for the independence of the Judiciary by the Executive. We also want to question whether the conduct of Chief Justice is in line with living out the independence of the judiciary and protecting its operational autonomy. Thus, the question of whether Chief Justice’s conduct is appropriate still lingers. We are asking ourselves, whether the executive sees judiciary as an independent arm or a subset of the executive,” said Motsamai.
Motsamai said the Chief Justice’s management style leaves a lot to be desired. He further argues that Chief Justice has made as a mountain out of a molehill. He (Dibotelo) has politicised an administrative issue and for that reason he must consider leaving the Judiciary.
“It appears to us that the appointing authority was eager to institute an enquiry on the judges who petitioned, instead of enquiring about the governance of the Judiciary with the intention to protect it and finding ways to bring peace,” Motsamai said.
He added that it appears that President Khama saw the judges as undermining authority and therefore deserving punishment.
“The Executive opted to look for the ring leaders. The Executive saw its role as that of micro-managing the judiciary and defending it from its internal enemies. Thus it will be quite a pleasant surprise if the Tribunal set to hear the disciplinary cases of the judges would find them not guilty. We see them facing almost certain dismissal. Their dismissal would, if or when it happens, also be unprecedented in our history,” said Motsamai.
BOPEU president said his union is concerned about whether the system of appointing judges is democratic.
“We find the Judicial Service Commission as mere recommending body with no effective power. There is too much power on the President, who may exercise it inappropriately. Under the present system we see the Judiciary being at the mercy of the executive,” concluded Motsamai.