Documents deposed by judges before the Francistown High Court have exposed the underbelly of Botswana’s judiciary as a cesspool of conspiracies, intrigues, backstabbing and hatred, going up to the highest office at the bench. High Court judge Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe who claims to have been privy to Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo’s plot to “destroy careers” of fellow judges has detailed for the first time how the Chief Justice may have been motivated by bad faith. In an affidavit deposed with the Francistown High Court, state how the Chief Justice who was angry because some judges had voted against him to push through a resolution calling for further training of judicial officers vowed to “destroy their careers.” This emerges in a case in which Justices Ketlogetswe, Lot Moroka, Godfrey Nthomiwa and Tshepo Motswagole are seeking an interim interdict to restrain the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Dibotelo from carrying on with disciplinary proceedings against them.
This follows their involvement in an August 2015 petition they endorsed which allegedly undermined Dibotelo’s authority. Dibotelo is demanding an apology or disciplinary act against the quartet. Ketlogetswe said he voluntarily advised Dibotelo against destroying careers of his colleagues during an annual Judicial Conference held in Mahalapye in 2015. “The following morning at breakfast, the Chief Justice and I sat at the same table and were generally in discussion. The Chief Justice remarked that he did not see the need for continuous or learning for judicial officers because when people applied for judicial office, they informed the JSC during interviews that they were appropriately qualified for the positions they applied for,” said Ketlogetswe.
According to Ketlogetswe, also sharing the table with us amongst others were, Registrar and Master of the High Court Michael Motlhabi and Taura Charumbira (Registrar and Deputy Registrar of the High Court respectively). There were other judges within earshot of our table. He said Dibotelo’s dissatisfaction with the resolution was visibly strong. He said Dibotelo unformed him that some of the judges advocating for judicial training were, improperly, receiving a housing allowance while occupying institutional houses.
“The Chief Justice stated further that he would expose such judges’ indiscretion to the print media so as to destroy their careers adding that he was aware that there were some among them who held the ambition to become Chief Justice,” said Ketlogetswe in his founding affidavit on behalf of Moroka, Nthomiwa and Motswagole. He added that “The remarks by the Chief Justice cause me anxiety and I beseeched him not to proceed in the manner he proposed. I stated to him that to take course would potentially damage the integrity of the judiciary.” Ketlogetswe said that “The Chief Justice was unrelenting. He instructed the Registrar Motlhabi that he should on Monday following provide him (the Chief Justice) with the names of all judges improperly receiving the house allowance.
The Chief Justice vowed to recover from the affected judges, at once, such amounts as they would have improperly received.” In response, Ketlogetswe said, he advised Dibotelo that the Finance Management Act would not permit such a once off recovery or deduction which could leave affected persons financially embarrassed. “I told the Registrar that as the Accounting Officer in the Department of Administration of Justice he had a duty to advise the Chief Justice accordingly.
The Registrar ignored my invitation. The Chief Justice remained aggrieved and he appeared determined to carry out his threats,” said Ketlogetswe. He said “The Monday following, the Chief Justice and I had a telephone discussion in connection with my transfer to Francistown High Court. Our discussion veered towards the matters discussed during the breakfast aforesaid.” He said Dibotelo reiterated his position. “I again requested him to abandon his proposed course, indicating to him that it would potentially destroy the legacy he helped build and further that he would leave behind when he retires, a fractured judiciary,” said Ketlogetswe.
He added that “I respectfully say that at the time of my aforesaid discussion with the Chief Justice, I was unaware of the names of the judges affected by the issue of housing allowance.” He states that, in the days following his discussion with Dibotelo he learnt that the Judicial Service Commission had reported the judges affected by the housing allowance issue to the police for criminal investigation. “I was shocked by this. I was left with the inescapable view that the Chief Justice had carried out the threats to destroy the careers of some judges,” he said. Ketlogetswe said that “consequent to the referral of the housing allowance issue to the police, there was a conversation amongst judges on this matter and generally on the Chief Justice’s leadership style.”
In due course and realising that there were various complaints against the Chief Justice’s stewardship, a meeting was convened at Mahalapye by concerned judges. The meeting was attended by 12 judges, one of whom was an acting judge. The JSC, he said, was not in attendance at this meeting. “At the said meeting, I confirmed the threats made by the Chief Justice in my discussions with him, in particular his threats to destroy careers. Various judges at the meeting narrated their individual complaints against the Chief Justice about what they perceived to be his destructive and divisive manner of running the Administration of Justice,” said Ketlogetswe. In the end, Ketlogetswe said, the 12 judges resolved that the complaints against Dibotelo were such that they warranted referral to the JSC for action. The various complaints by the judges were reduced into a written petition. It was addressed to the JSC. “The petition contains an aggregate of complaints from different judges against the Chief Justice.
Our expectation was that the JSC would conduct an investigation into the various complaints. We anticipated that in the fullness of time we would be invited to come and make representations before the JSC. At any rate the petition demanded audience with the JSC,” said Ketlogetswe. But by a letter dated 19th August 2015, the JSC stated that “it would not be appropriate” for it to meet the judges regarding issues raised in the petition “while investigations by the police are pending.” The investigations by the police relate to the referral of housing allowance issue by the JSC to the former.