Monday, October 26, 2020

Law Society condemns suspension of judges

The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) on Friday criticised President Ian Khama’s decision to suspend four High Court Judges Justice Key Dingake, Justice Modiri Letsididi, Justice Mercy Garekwe and Justice Ranier Busang. The quartet is accused of undermining the Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo and they are facing charges of bringing the judiciary into disrepute.

LSB Chairman Lawrence Lecha said on Friday that “we don’t want a situation of this nature because the judiciary is an institution that is held in high esteem. A judge is also held in high esteem.” He said the matter should have been handled internally.

“This matter should have been handled in the privacy of Chief Justice and Judges’ chambers because at this stage we don’t know whether they were wrong or not,” he said.

Lecha said they continue to be concerned as the Law Society of Botswana and they intend to hold a meeting and come up with a position on the matter.

“I will have to talk to members of the council and form a position. We have learnt that the judges are accused of bringing the judiciary into disrepute by writing letters,” he said.

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 and have also called for Dibotelo’s impeachment.

Meanwhile University of Botswana Law lecturer Patrick Gunda said Section 97(2) of the Constitution states that a judge could be removed from office among others as a result of inability to perform his or her functions or misbehaviour.

“However, the Constitution does not describe what amounts to misbehaviour,” said Gunda. 

According to Gunda, “The judiciary is an entrenched institution; you don’t just remove and appoint. The President has to appoint a tribunal which will investigate and determine whether he should remove a judge from office or not.” 

He added that the tribunal should be headed by a Chairperson and two other members who held high judiciary positions before such as a retired judge.

“The tribunal will inquire into the matter and report on the facts to the President,” he said.

Gunda is of the view that the suspended judges should have stepped down to clear their names even before they were suspended to protect the image of the country’s judiciary system.

“As it is now the situation has tainted other judiciary members. They should have stepped down to clear their names. I hope they have been suspended on full pay,” he said.

Khama suspended the quartet for challenging Justice Dibotelo’s move to report them to the Police for receiving housing allowances while staying in official residences.

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