Saturday, October 31, 2020

Khama appoints tribunal to probe suspended judges

President Ian Khama is reported to have appointed a tribunal to determine the fate of Justice Key Dingake, Justice Modiri Letsididi, Justice Mercy Garekwe and Justice Ranier Busang after they were accused of undermining Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo and bringing the judiciary into disrepute. 

While there was no official announcement on Monday, The Telegraph was informed that the tribunal is chaired by Justice Isaac Lesetedi. Other member’s are Justice Craig Howie, Lord Arthur Hamilton and John Foxcroft. Administration of Justice spokesperson, Clement Sibanda still insisted on Monday that they are yet to respond to a questionnaire sent last week Thursday. 

“I was with the Registrar and we are still studying your questions and I don’t think we will be able to assist you today,” Sibanda who was at pains to explain why they couldn’t respond to the questionnaire said Monday. 

President Khama appointed the tribunal under Section 97 (3) of the constitution.  It is understood that the terms of the tribunal are among other to investigate whether the four judges should or should not be removed from serving as a judges of the High Court of Botswana. This publication has not established when the tribunal is expected to present a report to President Khama but it is understood that it will reconvene in due course. 

Information has also emerged that some of the suspended judges were still presiding over cases on Monday. 

Several lawyers who appeared before the suspended judges at Lobatse High Court on Monday were shocked to learn that some of the suspended judges were still presiding over cases. One of the lawyers who spoke on condition of anonymity said that when he enquired from the court clerks why the judges were still presiding over cases while serving suspension he was informed that the suspension takes effect today (Tuesday). 

“I was a little bit sceptical because according to my knowledge, a suspension is with immediate effect,” he said. 

In 2012, President Khama set up a tribunal to investigate former High Court judge Onkemetse Tshosa. However, Tshosa resigned before the tribunal could reconvene and start its work, thus dissolving a tribunal set up to determine his fate after his conviction and sentence for assault. 

Khama is said to be working around the clock to make interim appointments to the judicial bench to fill the vacant posts occasioned by the suspensions.  Khama suspended the judges for challenging Justice Dibotelo’s move to report them to the police for receiving housing allowances while staying in official residences.

The four judges have since attacked the Chief Justice, saying his actions are highly questionable and amount to harassment and witch-hunting. They have threatened to take legal action against him for defamation. The government has not stated how long the suspensions will last.

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