Thursday, February 9, 2023

Botswana’s judiciary faces unprecedented litmus test

Botswana’s judiciary has entered a scary phase stoking fears that more judges are lining up applications seeking various orders against Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane, a report by the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has warned.

The report by the outgoing Chairman of LSB Tshekiso Tshekiso which was released at the just ended AGM of the society warns that; “The crisis in the judiciary continues unabated and deepens by the day with its independence and integrity under serious threat.”

The report states that from the “Chief Justices’ justification of allocation of a politically sensitive matter to a judge not on vacation on the basis that such matter required a senior judge, to allegations that he tried to influence Justice Ketlogetswe’s decision in a habeas corpus application that was before him, there is no doubt that the crisis that has always been there is now deepening.”

The outgoing Chairperson’s report further warned that; “The thing that should concern us as lawyers is if Judges can allege tempering with judicial process in matters before them what hope does the man on the street have that his case will be above-board?”  The report states that in September 2022 Council issued a press release calling for the Chief Justice to step down immediately as a result of the allegations referred to above, which call has clearly been ignored.”

In the notice, the report says, the Council of the Law Society of Botswana “noted that it was in the process of urgently getting legal advice on what steps it can take to ensure that the complaint is properly investigated and appropriate action is taken either against the Chief Justice, if the allegations against him are proven to be true, or Justice Ketlogetswe for making false allegations against the Chief Justice, if his allegations against the Chief Justice are proven to be false.”

“Members are informed that this process is complete and Council resolved to approach Court and seek orders among which are to direct His Excellency the President to appoint a tribunal in terms of Section 97 (3) of the Constitution to investigate the complaint lodged by Justice Ketlogetswe,” the report states.

Suggesting that more judges could be filing more applications against Rannowane, the Society indicated that, “In recent developments we have seen two judges of the High Court file applications seeking various orders against the Chief Justice. If this does not demonstrate chaos, then what will?”

Meanwhile the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has dragged President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Rannowane before the High Court demanding that the President sets up a tribunal against Rannowane’s alleged misconduct. In papers before Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa, the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) says Masisi’s decision to refer a complaint against Rannowane to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) needs to be reviewed and set aside.

The Society also seeks an order directing Masisi to appoint a tribunal within 30 days from the “date of an order of the High Court to investigate” the complaint lodged by Justice Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe on the 11th August and consider the question of removal of Rannowane from office.

The Society also asked the Court to compel the government to set up a tribunal subject to the “requirement that it must sit in public and that its findings are to be made public may regulate

its own procedure.” In her founding affidavit, Law Society of Botswana (LSB)’s secretary Lilian Muzimo as advised by Ketlogetswe’s attorneys, LSB was forced to make an application prompted by inaction and abdication of a statutory duty by Masisi after he allegedly failed to promptly deal with a complaint lodged by Ketlogetswe against Rannowane in respect of the prima facie case of judicial interference.

“The results being pursued is a declaration that the inaction is tantamount to a decision rejecting to act per the statutory duty and that further correspondence in which Masisi redirect the matter to the Judicial Service Commission can be treated as a date at which the decision was made being 5th September 2022.”

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