Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Justice Kebonang caught up in judicial storm

Lawyers acting for attorney Philemon Leitshamo have petitioned acting Chief Justice Lakvinder Walia requesting that Justice Zein Kebonang should recuse himself from a case in which the lawyer is challenging a court order issued by Justice Kebonang seeking his imprisonment for contempt of court.
Justice Kebonang has issued an order seeking to imprisonLeitshamo for failing to appear before him and also for walking out of court while the judge was still drafting an order for his client’s case.  
On 16 December, attorney Leitshamo instructed Seabueng Attorneys challenging justice Kebonang’s orders of 30 November and 7th December, both seeking his imprisonment.
But the judge refused to hear Leitshamo’s application insisting that his lawyer Ricardo Seabueng should produce his client.
Seabueng wanted to argue that the case shouldn’t proceed before Kebonang but the judge said the lawyer had not sought application that he recuses himself adding that even if he did he would not entertain it.
“Your client is in breach of the contempt order and you are a party to it because he had appeared before you to sign the affidavit. You are a party to it being aware of the Court order and he continues not purging the contempt,” said Kebonang.
The judge added that “he should not have been here and this being contempt proceedings I cannot continue to entertain the matter. I’m not in a position to hear you because your client is not here.”
The petition to Justice Walia by Leitshamo seeks a stay of execution for Justice Kebonang’s Court Orders that the attorney be committed to prison.
“It is our considered view that the said orders reflect badly on the judiciary and will certainly erode the public confidence in our judiciary. It is inconceivable that a judge of the High Court could sit on his chamber and make an order of the imprisonment of an attorney without giving him an opportunity to present his side of the story,” said Seabueng.
Seabueng stated that “we believe that this is a matter that has to be taken to the Court of Appeal for it to direct whether what happened in this case is proper. We are therefore appealing Judge Kebonang’s decision and in the interim we seek a stay of execution pending appeal for if the order is executed, the appeal will become an academic exercise.”
In his affidavit, the attorney Leitshamo argues that the order seeking to imprison him is unlawful and irregular in that it was granted without giving him the opportunity to show cause why it should not be granted.
“I never knew that I was cited for contempt nor was I ever informed that the matter was coming up on the 7th December. I only learnt of the order upon my arrest by the police,” Leitshamo.
The lawyer states that the issuance of a court order by Justice Kebonang in a manner in which he did is borne of malice and personal revenge. Leitshamo said it was inconceivable that a judge of the high court could do what Justice Kebonang did.
“On Friday 11th December whilst driving through Kang village on his way to Gaborone to meet with his lawyer, he was arrested by Kang police who showed him for the first time an order dated 7th December together with a warrant of arrest for his incarceration for seven days faxed to Kang Police station,” said Leitshamo.
He said the two police officers arrested him informed him that justice Kebonang had given firm instructions for his arrest.
“The police released me after realising that the order was fatally defective, unintelligible and not capable of enforcement as it did not give me an opportunity to show cause and was granted in my absence without any notice.
He said Justice Kebonang had developed a tendency to ridicule him and showing him greater disrespect every time he appeared before him; only for him to call him to his chambers after court to inform him that he should not read much into his conduct towards him. 
“…Little by little. I was getting worried by Judge Kebonang’s attitude towards me. I however hoped that he would adjust. I also viewed his conduct resulting from an excitement for his appointment as a judge and was probably trying to set the record straight and probably being friends I happened to find myself in the line of fire,” said Leitshamo.


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