Sunday, January 29, 2023

Justice Komboni’s transfer motivated by Kgosi, Khama lawsuits

The decision to transfer Justice Gabriel Komboni from Gaborone to Francistown was allegedly meant to prevent him from presiding over Isaac Kgosi and Ian Khama lawsuits, The Sunday Standard has been informed. The independent minded Komboni was assigned to preside over the two lawsuits, with  the former Director  of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) and former president collectively suing the government for well over P100 million.

It is not clear why Komboni would be expected to switch places with Barnabas Nyamadzabo when there are already existing vacancies in Gaborone one of which can be filled by the latter. Sunday Standard has however learnt there may have been ulterior motives behind the decision to transfer Komboni to Francistown. Komboni this past week ruled against the State in the case where Khama is suing the Attorney General, DPP, DCEC and Jako Hobona for defamation arising from an affidavit made by Hobona in opposing a bail application by Wilhelmina Maswabi (Butterfly).

In the affidavit, Hobona, alleges that Khama and others siphoned Millions of Pula from Bank of Botswana. The state had objected that it was not proper to sue Hobona and other officials in their personal capacities while they were acting in their official capacities. On the other hand Khama argued they acted maliciously and therefore they should take personal responsibility. In his order on the special plea Komboni said he could only decide the issue after he hears the evidence from both sides and therefore ordered for the case to go to trial. Komboni is also expected to preside over the Kgosi matter involving the infamous arrest at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) in which the former spy boss is suing the government for P50 million.  Kgosi argues that the Palapye Magistrate who allegedly issued the arrest warrant abused her judicial discretion and powers.

“The Magistrate issued an irregular Warrant of Arrest in Palapye against Kgosi without any application before her for the arrest of Kgosi. Magistrate Motsamai did so knowing that she had no jurisdiction over the tax matter,” Kgosi’s lawyers said at the time. The said Magistrate has written a sworn affidavit distancing herself from the warrant and denying any involvement. Komboni has filed a lawsuit against Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane challenging the transfer. In his urgent application Komboni has argued that Justice Rannowane’s reason for transfering him to Francistown to take over Judge Nyamadzabo’s workload in Francistown as the latter will be transferred to Gaborone to take part in preparation for 2024 general elections was not good enough.

“I am also reliably informed that the Chief Justice now takes the view that I and not Judge Nyamadzabo should relocate to Lobatse, as I can still commute between Gaborone and Lobatse. It now seems that the motive is to remove me from Gaborone at all costs,” Komboni said, also raising questions about the motive to move him from Gaborone. “Even assuming that the Chief Justice has authority to transfer a judge of the High Court, his decision is irrational as it Is not in any way intended to enhance operational efficiency within the administration of justice, but it is rather intended to bring to bear Justice Nyamadzabo’s influence in the elections through the Independent Election Commission.”

He said the motives for seeking to remove him from Gaborone to Francistown are not clear as there are numerous vacancies at the High Court in Gaborone, which are yet to be filled-up. “Judge Tafa recently retired and there has not been a replacement. Judge Motlhabi will be moving to Lobatse,” he said. Komboni said his selection as the person to be transferred to Francistown also seems arbitrary.

“There are judges to have been appointed in Gaborone following my appointment. It is not clear to me what criteria the Chief Justice used in targeting me and not them. I therefore contend that assuming the Chief Justice has powers to transfer judges, such powers in this instance has clearly been exercised in a manner that is arbitrary,” said Komboni.  He said he was not consulted prior to the decision to transfer him was taken. “I have also scheduled trials for next year. My transfer would greatly inconvenience those litigants with part-head trials as their matters would need to start de novo. In many of the matters the litigants are represented. The cost implications are therefore significant,” he said of the impending matters before him which cases include those of Kgosi and Khama.

Chief Justice has also recently lost a case in which he sought to bring Komboni’s case from Maun to Gaborone to be heard by a panel of three judges handpicked by the Rannowane himself. Maun high court judge Bugalo Maripe interdicted Rannowane from transferring the case to Gaborone, accusing the Chief Justice of undermining judicial independence.

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