Mahalapye Senior Magistrate Austin Sibanda’s weekend was ruined after he was summarily dismissed from duty last Friday for allegedly refusing to be transferred to Gaborone. Sibanda, a Zimbabwean national who has served as magistrate in several courts across Botswana, among them Tsabong and Palapye was supposed to have reported for duty at the Village Magistrate court in Gaborone on 3 February this year but it appears he never did so, resulting in his dismissal from the department of Administration of Justice. Sibanda gained prominence in 2010 when a Hukuntsi farmer, Ookame Lekaukau sued him for unlawful detention. At the time, Lekaukau had sought P425 000 from Sibanda as compensation for his unlawful incarceration.
In his court papers, Lekaukau had stated that while appearing for mention before Sibanda’s court on stock theft charges in Kang, the magistrate had ordered for the cancellation of his probation after his Gaborone-based lawyer did not turn up due to ill health. Efforts to solicit comment from Sibanda’s supervisors proved futile. The receptionist at the High Court Head Office in Gaborone said all public relations practitioners were not in office. The telephone at the Mahalapye Principal Magistrate’s office went unanswered on Friday afternoon.
After confirming that the Assistant Registrar of Court Michael Motlhabi was in office, her secretary backtracked after a few minutes and said he was in a meeting somewhere in the building. Reached for comment, the expelled magistrate Sibanda said as a foreigner he was not comfortable giving interviews to newspapers. He pleaded with this reporter, “Please Morena, I am a foreigner as such I do not want to talk to newspapers. Please respect that for me”.