The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has dragged President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chief Justice (CJ) Terrance Rannowane before the High Court.
The LSB is demanding the Head of State to set up a tribunal against Rannowane’s alleged misconduct.
In papers before Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa, the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) says Masisi’s decision to refer a complaint against Rannowane to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) needs to be reviewed and set aside.
The Society also seeks an order directing Masisi to appoint a tribunal within 30 days from the “date of an order of the High Court to investigate” the complaint lodged by Justice Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe on the 11th August and consider the question of removal of Rannowane from office.
The Society also asked the Court to compel the government to set up a tribunal subject to the “requirement that it must sit in public and that its findings are to be made public may regulate its own procedure.”
In her founding affidavit, Law Society of Botswana (LSB)’s secretary Lilian Muzimo as advised by Ketlogetswe’s attorneys, LSB was forced to make an application prompted by inaction and abdication of a statutory duty by Masisi after he allegedly failed to promptly deal with a complaint lodged by Ketlogetswe against Rannowane in respect of the prima facie case of judicial interference.
“The results being pursued is a declaration that the inaction is tantamount to a decision rejecting to act per the statutory duty and that further correspondence in which Masisi redirect the matter to the Judicial Service Commission can be treated as a date at which the decision was made being 5th September 2022.” said Muzimo.
She said the Society seeks among others a review directing the assembling and initiation of a tribunal in terms of section 97(3) of the constitution.
“On or about 11 August 2022, a correspondence issued by 4th respondent, Judge Ketlogetswe was made public in which he complained to President Masisi about the conduct of CJ Rannowane,” said Muzimo.
She said; “To be more particular, Ketlogetswe complaint pertains to an attempt by CJ Rannowane to influence his judgment in relation to a matter where Hon Member Thapelo Matsheka was unlawful arrested and detained.”
Muzimo said, as the events unfolded, Rannowane for the third time, during a call on the 7th August once again proceeded to ask Ketlogetswe if he was going to release Matsheka and Ketlogetswe indicated that there was no other decision that he could make other than to release the Matsheka.
She said Rannowane upon hearing that Matsheka would be released, proceeded once again to complain about the “embarrassment that extended to President Masisi.”
According to court papers, it was at this stage that Rannowane communicated to Minister of state President Kabo Morwaeng and the two acted in concert to attempt to influence Ketlogetswe.
Some of the findings that the Law Society is attempting to discover is that:
-Rannowane was disappointed that a prominent politician (Matsheka) could be held unlawfully, and that the disappointment was based on the fact that law enforcement officers were quick to arrest, detain or charge people when their cases are not well investigated such that when the outcome of the cases is undesirable it appears as if the actions of the State were politically motivated and thus causing embarrassment to Masisi.
– That Rannowane’s main concern on the conversations with Ketlogetswe were that Matsheka was unlawfully detained by law enforcement officers and Ketlogetswe would be wrong to release him.
-That Rannowane actually proceeded to congratulate Ketlogetswe on his well-reasoned judgement after it was delivered;
-That Rannowane did indeed call Ketlogetswe on the 7th august 2022, however, this was simply to wish Ketlogetswe well and ensure that his safety was well catered for.
-That Rannowane had never tried to influence Ketlogetswe to detail Matsheka and the concerns over safety were simply premised on various occasions where the court and its judicial officers were exposed as vulnerable to criminal risk.
-That Rannowane’s last communication with Ketlogetswe was through a WhatsApp which showed no intention to issue a complaint and thus possible reason why one subsequently arose is due to a collusion of Ketlogetswe and his political handlers.
-That as far as the Gaongalelwe Commission is concerned, Ketlogetswe informed Rannowane that a relative time before the Matsheka mater that he speaks directly with Minister Kabo Morwaeng and that there was indication that the Commission’s recommendations would be implemented. Therefore, on the premises of the previous communications on the matter, Rannowane asked Ketlogetswe about progress of the issue from time to time;
The LSB indicated that that the 4th respondent (Ketlogetswe’s) complaint is not the only reason formed in his mind for the decision to request an enquiry for removal of Rannowane, but rather there is a previous instance where a matter involving former President Ian Khama was signed to Judge Christopher Gabanagae on the basis of him being said to be a senior judge:
In response, thereto, the Society says, the attorneys Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys questioned this reasoning as there were several more senior judges from Judge Gabanagae and the Ketlogetswe correctly maintain that the Law Society also raised issue with the assignment and its basis at the time.
Court papers show that Rannowane was displeased with the Law Society’s reaction to his decision to assign the matter and told the Society that it was constituted by a cabal of “bakalaka.”
-That Rannowane further insisted that he would not allow any judge from the north of Dibete village to handle cases involving former President Khama.
-That in relation to the actual response made to the substance of the complaint by the society, Rannowane was correct that Ketlogetswe made the first phone call, however this was purely administrative.
-That in general, Morwaeng made calls to Rannowane for administrative purposes and it later spilled into an attempt towards influencing the outcomes of the matter and when Rannowane made mention of the fact that the state counsel had made fatal concessions in their papers.
-That since Masisi has injudiciously rejected to convene a tribunal and proceed to abdicate his authority, the Society maintains that the 2nd respondent can be mandated to do so by this court given the gravities of the complaint in issue as well as the fact that court is in as good position as Masisi to direct the convening of a tribunal.
“This matter is one of the great importance and there is active concern from the general public over the state of the judiciary since having access to the correspondences of the 3rd -respondent (Rannowane),” said Muzimo.
She added that. “I maintain that the only currency that the judiciary enjoys is the faith, trust and confidence that the public has in its workings.” Muzimo indicated that; “The allegations and counter allegations have received coverage and have greatly damaged public confidence in the judiciary.” She said; “It is imperative to restore public confidence in the workings of the judiciary and to account to the citizenry as to its state and this compels that a tribunal be held and same be held in public and its findings publicized.”