Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Dikgakgamatso Seretse wants answers on the ensuing row between the Chief Justice and judges. Seretse’s office has written the Administration of Justice seeking an explanation on the clash between Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, Judge Tshepo Motswagole, Lot Moroka, and Mercy Garekwe among others. “I have officially written to them to seek an explanation,” Seretse confirmed to the Sunday Standard this week. Seretse came out strongly against forum shopping pointing out that the judiciary is highly dependent on the integrity of its professionals. Although the Judiciary enjoys some autonomy from other organs of state, administratively it falls under the ministry of Justice Defence and Security.
“If that is happening then it is not good for the legal fraternity….lawyers know how judges think,” adding that if it gets so pronounced that lawyers forum shop for judges it could undermine the respect members of the public have for the Courts. The minister also criticised the open exchange between Judges and the Chief Justice. He said the tug of war between the judges should get every Motswana concerned.
“If the newspaper reports are anything to go bye then the communication ought to have been handled differently,” adding that a public spat between judges of the High Court and the Chief Justice was highly undesirable. Despite tendering an apology to Judges Dibotelo has not had it easy. Indications are that Judge Tshepo Motswagole intends to sue the Chief Justice. The Law Firm Collins Chilisa Consultants is also understood to be taking Dibotelo to task after the CJ accused the firm of flouting the rules abusing the case registration process. Meanwhile Government legal advisor Athaliah Molokomme has called on lawyers to close ranks and protect the integrity of the profession.
Her comments come a day after the law society gave Dibotelo an ultimatum to apologise to lawyers or face a possible lawsuit. The society has threatened to extract an apology from Dibotelo for his suggestions that lawyers doing forum shopping could possibly be bribing judges and registry staff.
The letter from the law society is signed by its chairperson Lawrence Lecha and copied to the Attorney General, High Court judges and attorneys. However, Molokomme is optimistic the issue will be resolved amicably following Dibotelo’s apology to judges. “Am quite confident with the steps taken so far by the Chief Justice and his judges,” adding that she is aware that the Judges had closed ranks around the Chief Justice to amicably resolve the issue. At its meeting held midweek, the Law Society has defended forum shopping and points an accusing finger at ineffective judges who fail to deliver judgements on time. It states that for as long as the appointments of judges remain clouded in secrecy, forum shopping will continue. The society is concerned with the delay in delivery of judgement.
Dibotelo has been warned to take action against judges who fail to timeously deliver judgement. The lawyers have indicated that if the Chief Justice does not respond to their concerns over outstanding judgements the law society will take him to task over his supervisory role as head of the Administration of Justice.