Among the many things that Batswana have to give up as a result of the economic recession, justice is at the top of the list, it has since emerged.
Twice this year, Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo has revealed how it is becoming increasingly difficult to serve justice because of government’s belt tightening.
The situation has become so critical that towards the end of every financial year, work at Botswana courts grinds to a halt because there is no money to run the judicial system.
Justice Dibotelo told the Opening of the legal year earlier this year that, “funding for the judiciary in Botswana continues to be a challenge. Every year the judiciary runs out of funding towards the end of the financial year resulting in cases being halted due to the courts inability to pay witnesses’ allowances, pro deo fees, travelling and subsistence allowances for judicial officers and support staff.”
“This in turn impacts on the Constitutional rights of the accused persons especially those held in custody as they cannot be heard.
The Chief Justice raised this concern again at a judicial conference in Mahalapye in July.
“The domino effect of these cuts is that every end of financial year we run out of funds for the essentials such as payments to witnesses for their accommodation, meals and transport. Payments to lawyers appointed by the state to represent accused persons in murder or such other serious offences, for their accommodation, travel, meal, court attendance, stationery, yes ball points, line papers, case covers e.t.c travelling and subsistence allowance for judicial officers and their staff resulting in court operations grinding to a halt”, he said.
The Chief Justice further revealed that, “most of our court buildings are in a state of disrepair with very old and dangerous furniture in urgent need of replacement. The court buildings and institutional houses will do well with fresh coat of paint. Most of the air conditioners at our old court are non-functional making the court not user friendly in summer and winter.
While in the past the Chief Justice was agitating for the financial independence of the judiciary, lately he has climbed down from that position and is campaigning for an increase in the budget allocation to the judiciary.