Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo has finally bowed to pressure from judges in Lobatse High Court division who had written a letter notifying him that they won’t be handling any cases until he makes a public apology for accusing them of taking bribes. In a press release issued late Friday, Justice Dibotelo said the circular he issued last week was never intended to impute impropriety on the Judges.
“For the record, I hold the Judges of this Republic in the highest esteem and have complete confidence in their integrity, independence and impartiality. Consequently, to the extent that I was understood to impute that Judges are corruptible I have unequivocally apologized to them and assure the public that they have a corruption free judiciary acknowledged the world over for its integrity, independence and impartiality,” he said. He said the cancellation of registration of the originating process at Lobatse was not intended to impute the Lobatse division to be an instrument of forum shopping or corruption, but rather as a measure to minimize abuse of the judicial case management system registration process. Justice Dibotelo, however, reiterated his displeasure with forum shopping saying it gives an impression that judges are not independent.
“The issue of forum shopping is a matter of grave concern to the judiciary and we are going to take steps to stop it. It cannot be acceptable that clients or their lawyers pick and choose who of the Judges should preside over their cases as that gives the impression that Judges are not independent and impartial and they will take sides unduly, in violation of their constitutional duty.”
Dibotelo’s apology comes a day after Lobatse High Court judges downed tools demanding an apology from the Chief Justice. In their letter to Justice Dibotelo, the judges demanded that he should show evidence of the judges and support staff whose hands are being greased; the names of the lawyers who grease judges and the support staff hands; the cases in which the greasing of hands was done; the amounts involved and the corrective internal steps that he took before going public on the matter. The judges had also said that his circular was of no force and effect as the rules of the High Court allowed filing of originating papers in Lobatse. They also accused the Chief Justice of failing to address the issue of poor service delivery which has led to forum shopping.
Gaborone based lawyer, Mboki Chilisa of Collins Chilisa Consultants said Dibotelo’s apology did not address the issues raised by Lobatse judges particularly on the issue regarding the illegality of his circular with respect to filing of originating papers in Lobatse and the issue of poor service delivery.