Friday, September 25, 2020

JSC climbs down as Justice Tebutt joins fight against controversial judicial appointments reforms

The President of the Court of Appeal, Patrick Tebutt, this week joined forces with the Botswana Law Society to force the Judicial Services Commission to climb down from its judicial appointment reforms that gave President Lt Gen Ian Khama powers to choose who to appoint judge ÔÇô Sunday Standard has been informed.

The controversial reforms were sneaked through the backdoor and lobbied to JSC members. According to the new system the President’s powers were extended beyond that of an appointing authority, giving him a hand in choosing who is to be appointed to the bench.

Previously, the President only appointed names from the JSC without any discretionary powers to chose who he likes.

According to information reaching The Sunday Standard the law society’s position which was tabled by its representative, Peter Collins, received support from the President of the Court of Appeal, Patrick Tebutt.

Like the Law Society, the President of the Appeals court is reported to be of the view that the reforms are unconstitutional because Khama does not have the power to choose at his own discretion whom he wishes to appoint to the bench, and should be confined to appointing in line with recommendations made to him by the JSC.

At a heated meeting on Tuesday, Advocate Collins and Justice Tebutt are understood to have prevailed upon other members of the JSC who agreed to stay the new system until a meeting where a definite decision is to be taken.

In making judicial appointments recently, Khama is understood to have disregarded the JSC’s order of preferences and instead followed his personal preferences. This move is believed to have irked members of the law society who are unhappy with Khama’s latest appointment.

Apart from Collins and Tebutt, the JSC is made up of Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme and two other officials.

It is understood that the debate over judicial appointments reforms has been deferred to the next JSC where a final decision is expected to be made. This week the JSC also interviewed lawyers interested in filling the vacancies of the two posts of judges that was advertised a few months ago.
Among those that were interviewed and possibly leading the race is the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leatile Dambe, Manager at the legal Affairs division at the Office of the President, Bongi Radipati, Regional magistrate Lot Moroka, deputy Attorney General Daphne Matlakala, and Chief magistrate Barnabas Nyamadzabo.

Also interviewed were University of Botswana Academics, Dr Tachilisa Balule and Mike Mothobi. The two have practiced and taught law at UB for over ten years
The JSC has resolved that pending the finalisation of the issue concerning the proper interpretation of section 96(2) the JSC will meanwhile revert to the old system of appointment and will assess from the individuals interviewed and recommend two names for Khama to appoint as judges.
However, it is understood that the Law society is ready to drag the JSC before the High Court to seek for a proper interpretation on Khama’s appointing authority as conferred by the Botswana Constitution.

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