Justice Terrence Rannowane of Gaborone High Court has reacted sharply to a special audit report that was commissioned by Chief justice Maruping Dibotelo which exposed him as amongst the judges who had wrongly received housing allowance while occupying government institutional house.
Rannowane was listed on the report for owing government P47 000 housing allowance.
According to papers before court, the final audit report was compiled by auditors at the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security at the request of Dibotelo.
Rannowane has since approached the court seeking among others that some portion of the final audit as it relates to him should be expunged. Rannowane accuses the author of the report, Maria Mokgwathi of making incorrect findings with regard to payment of allowance to him.
He said the findings have far reaching implications on his integrity as a judge adding that Mokgwathi had reached conclusions regarding the payment of housing allowance to him without inviting him to give input or make representations to her.
He said that despite giving Mokgwathi an opportunity to correct her findings she has not done so.
According to Rannowane, as he was appointed to replace Justice Masuku, he had a legitimate expectation that he would be allocated his institutional house once he vacated it. He said after Masuku had vacated the house he asked to be allowed to occupy it but he was sent from pillar to post.
“I was never told why I could not occupy the said house because as a judge I was entitled to rent free accommodation,” he said.
He added that “…I was deeply frustrated and humiliated by this discriminatory practice but what exacerbated my pain was that six months down the line Mrs Ibrahim-Carstens was appointed judge and immediately allocated judge Masuku’s house.”
As a result, Rannowane said, he took a decision to demand payment of housing allowance because that was what he was entitled to.
“I demanded it because I was not accommodated rent free but was in fact paying rent . in my opinion that there is no middle ground. It is either rent free accommodation or payment of allowance,” he said. Rannowane said around September 2008 (five months after his appointment) the government relented and started paying him housing allowance but he continued paying rent.
“There is no judge in this country who has ever been required to live and pay rent in a supposedly government house, using his or her own furniture and treated like other cadres such as clerical and administrative staff and I resent the implication that I should have settled for this type of treatment,” he argued.
He said that unlike four judges that were suspended he was not living in institutional house but a pool house.
“I must also disclose that no in the Administration of Justice management has ever queried the payment of this allowance although it was fully known that it was paid because I applied considerable pressure to either get it or be given rent free accommodation. It was only after I refused to sign the letter calling for the Chief Justice’s impeachment that I began hearing whispers that I was in the same position as the four suspended judges,” said Rannowane.
Replying, Mokgwathi states that Rannowane was staying in a house whose rental was subsidised while at the same time earning a housing allowance which was way above the rental and he was duty bound to pay back to government the difference between the housing allowance and the rental.
She said it was not necessary for her to invite Rannowane to give input or make representations to her. “My findings were made on the basis of the documentary evidence I had gathered,” said Mokgwathi.