Friday, September 30, 2022

Deputy Attorney General Keetshabe resigns

Resignations at the Attorney General’s Chambers reached fever pitch last week when Deputy Attorney General (Civil Litigation), Abraham Merryweather Keetshabe, tendered his resignation.

The exuberant government attorney dropped a bombshell resignation after a failed bid to land a job on the bench as a judge.

Keetshabe confirmed to The Sunday Standard in an interview that he will be leaving the public service at the end of May after an illustrious 25 years of service.

He, however, prefers to call his resignation a retirement instead.
Keetshabe is 47 years old, only two years beyond the early retirement age of 45.

“Yes, I am retiring at the end of May 2011. I will, however, continue practicing law,” he said, adding that he is going into private practice.

However, sources within the government enclave point out that his resignation was prompted by the frustration he suffered after his bid to land a job as a judge was rejected.

Registrar and Master of the High Court, Godfrey Nthomiwa, confirmed that Keetshabe once applied for judgeship and was interviewed. He, however, refused to disclose whether Keetshabe was ever recommended by the Judicial Service Commission for appointment as a judge or not, preferring to say such matters were confidential.

The JSC has recently come under pressure for the manner in which judges are chosen.

People not in favour with the executive stand little chance even if recommended by the JSC because of the new model where moe names are given to the President thn there are vancancies.

It is not clear whether Keetshabe failed the interview or was rejected by the appointing authority who, in this case, is President Ian Khama.

As a government attorney, Keetshabe will be remembered for his stoic opposition of an application by University of Botswana political science lecturer Professor Kenneth Good, following Good being declared a prohibited immigrant by former President Festus Mogae.

Keetshabe, assisted by Moemedi Modisanyane, opposed the application when attorneys Dick Bayford and Duma Boko challenged Good’s deportation decree.

Other big cases that Keetshabe opposed, as government attorney, included the case of another prohibited immigrant, Nigerian national Dr Henry Chianumungu, who was practicing as a medical doctor in Maun.

Keetshabe also represented government in the Daisy Loo case when the Chief Justice, Magistrates Court and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions were entangled in a fight with Moemedi Dijeng over the release of an over P21 million cheque, issued by the Gaborone City Council for bush clearing works the company had done following an arbitration.

Keetshabe also acted on behalf of Sidney Pilane when he was detained for contempt of court by former High Court Judge Justice Unity Dow during the Basarwa of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve marathon trial.

A government attorney who did not want to be named said it is sad that the AG’s Chambers is losing a lawyer of Keetshabe’s caliber, especially at a time when the office had already lost prominent lawyers like Tshepo Motswagole, former DPP director Leatile Dambe and her deputy Phadi Solomon who were all appointed judges of the High Court.

Another young upcoming lawyer who recently left government is Kgosietsile Ngakayagae who was among the prosecution team during the Nchindo case.

“His departure is a great loss for the AG’s office. The AG has lost a lot of high caliber lawyers in a short spell of time. Keetshabe’s departure really affects the clout of the AG’s office and the government should have tried its best to retain him,” said the government lawyer.

As Deputy Attorney General (Civil Litigation), Keetshabe was responsible for directing and supervising the conduct of civil litigation by or against government concerning all claims in favour of government and all defences to civil proceedings against government, state organs or departments in applications, actions in delict or contract, petitions and constitutional and administrative reviews as well as labour matters.

He also directed and supervised the conduct of all arbitrations in which government or any of the state organs was involved as a defendant or respondent.

His role also included prosecution and defending civil suits by or against government and public officers in their official capacity, especially in complex constitutional and administrative matters as well as matters of national importance.

He prepared opinions, drafted legal responses and appeared before international tribunals to defend government position as well as decisions made by any state organ.

Keetshabe gave legal advice to all arms of government, including the judiciary, National Assembly and cabinet on litigation matters in addition to performing the duties of the Attorney General in her absence and performed all functions of the AG, including parliament as was the case in the past in an advisory role.

He also negotiated and settled any claims on behalf of government when necessary.
As Deputy AG he recommended the laws that promoted good governance, monitored decisions of the courts of Botswana and advised government on compliance and implementation, including amendment of the relevant laws.

In 1995 Keetshabe became the first Motswana to be appointed to the Chief Magistrate position and he was also instrumental in pioneering and authoring the constitutions of the Botswana Magistrates and Judges Association.

Prior to becoming Deputy AG, he was Deputy Registrar and Master of the High Court.

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