Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Last four ‘dissenting’ judges give up

The last set of four High Court judges who signed a controversial petition that was critical of Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo have withdrawn their petition, the acting registrar and master of high court, Juliana Dube has confirmed. They are Justices Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe, Lot Moroka, Godfrey Nthomiwa and Tshepo Motswagole.

In the petition, titled, ‘Leadership Crisis in the Judiciary’, the petitioners alleged that among others Dibotelo had threatened to destroy their careers and that his “intense belief in witchcraft” had strained his personal relations with judge colleagues and other members of staff. For over two years, the four judges who were part of the remaining signatories to the petition unequivocally refused to withdraw their signatures and backtrack on the criticism levelled against Dibotelo.

In their response to the JSC’s demand the quartet questioned why the JSC has failed to take action on the Petition in almost two years. The quartet further raises issue in respect of the legal basis for the JSC’s demand when the body has failed to fulfil its obligatory function of investigating the conduct of Judges. The JSC, which is created by under the Constitution, has among its various functions an obligation to look into the conduct of Judges, in the same way the Law Society of Botswana looks into complaints against lawyers.

As the body entrusted with oversight of judge’s conduct they JSC is unable to ignore a complaint against a judge unless it has been withdrawn. With criticism mounting as to its failure to act in respect of the petition against Dibotelo, the JSC is seeking to resolve the complaints against Dibotelo without the needs to conduct an inquiry by indirectly, through an implied suggestion, seeking the remaining 4 petitioners to withdraw their signatures. However on Friday, the administration of Justice said that the four judges have since withdrawn their petition and all consequential litigation flowing therefrom.

The four have also to pay the costs of the proceedings as taxed or agreed. “The Judicial Service Commission and the Judges now regard this matter as settled”, said Dube on Friday. The Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) failure to deal with the 2015 Petition against Chief Justice Dibotelo has over the past two years undermined the integrity of the Judiciary and raises questions as to its (lack of) independence.

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