The government has finally given a nod to the demand from the Judges to be provided with BMW luxurious cars as official transport. The revelation was made by the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi during a Judicial Stakeholder Conference held in Francistown on Monday. Kgathi said such a move was another way of improving conditions of work for judicial officers and mainly to give the Judges the respect they deserve.
“I am happy to inform you that the long-term problem that you have been experiencing hirtherto with regard to your official transport has been resolved. I have managed to get government decision to upgrade your vehicles from Volvo to BMW. You deserve a respectful status if it has to go with that level,” he said
Early this year 26 High Court Judges demanded that government buy them the high-priced 5 Series BMW model while the government had settled for the Volvo S60. They threatened to drag the government to court accusing it for meddling into their independence by trying to choose for them the kind of vehicles they should use.
According to media reports, the 26 BMWs, were to be bought from Capital BMW at around P19,5 million in total, or P750,000 each. However the Volvo S60 from Barloworld is priced at around P490 000 each or P12,740 000 in total for 26 units.
Delivering the good news to the Judges, Minister Kgathi said he has since instructed the Registrar of the High Court Michael Motlhabi to progress with immediate effect in procurement of such vehicles for the Judges. He further said it is crucial to do a holistic interrogation of the condition of service of the entire justice system.
Touching on some of the challenges with regard to conditions of service the Minister has lamented on the poor working conditions for judicial officers especially the magistrates. Kgathi said he visited a number of magistrates across the country and found out that the conditions which they work in are not safe for the nature of the work they do.
“We need to do a security assessment of the entire justice system so that we can be able to ensure that you work in a safe environment. That has to input into the designs of even the buildings. As a magistrate when you leave the court which has suspects or accused persons who have been brought to court, your safety has to be given priority. In some courts the magistrates sits next to each other and to me that is not safe at all. We all need to present these to the attention of government as stakeholders,” he said.
He also said that it is very important to look at the condition of service at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He said if the DPP is not empowered there will be delay in prosecution. He pleaded with stakeholder to work holistically to address the challenges. He was however positive saying that the President has since appointed a Commission to look into the Conditions of Service and other Entitlements for the Political Leadership, Justices, Members of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi and others which is chaired by Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe.
“I believe you will make your submissions either as individuals, or as a collective, depending on your own determination,” he said.
Among other challenges facing the Judiciary, Kgathi said there is need for the stakeholders in the judiciary to find long lasting solutions on Gender Based Violence, Stock Theft and bail issues. He however admitted that finding solutions to these problems is a complex balancing act between ensuring judiciary independence and fairness vis-avis the expectations of the nation within which the judiciary exists.
“I guess you are aware that in your respective areas Batswana have strong views with respect to stock theft, bail and gender based violence such as rape, incest and femicide. They believe that the view they hold should determine or shape the direction of justice which is and should not be the case,” he said.