Friday, June 9, 2023

Magistrate presides over court cases while awaiting own trial

The Department of Justice found itself on trial this week after a Village Magistrate, who is facing charges of causing death by dangerous driving and is awaiting his day in the dock, was allowed to continue presiding over court cases.

Mareledi Dipate is alleged to have knocked down a pedestrian in Gaborone. His case, however, has not been scheduled for hearing because the southern region magistrate who was to hear the case, Annah Mathiba, left the bench to take up another job as an Industrial Court Judge.

Sources close to the case say that this means that the case will have to be referred to another judge and this, they say, might take time.

A source inside the department told The Sunday Standard this week that colleagues within the system are worried that allowing Dipate to continue presiding over judicial cases tarnishes the Administration of Justice.

?The department should have taken action on this immediately,? said the source. ?As it is now, this only makes people question the seriousness of the Department of Justice.?

The source further said people are wondering if Dipate was fit to preside over cases of causing death by dangerous driving whilst he, himself, is facing similar charges.

?This is what baffles us more. How can you expect him to preside over such a case whilst he is accused of same??

There is also concern as indications are that a colleague would be asked to preside over the matter. They argue that justice would only be seen to be done if a magistrate from outside this jurisdiction was brought in for the case.

?If that can be done, I think it would please both parties as compared to when his colleague is asked to prosecute him.?

A call to the Village Magistrate Court confirmed that Dipate still works as a Magistrate. After answering the phone, he confirmed that he was Dipate but cut the line after this reporter identified himself.

When asked to comment, the Registrar and Master of the High Court, Godfrey Nthomiwa, said that he would have to refer the matter to the Judicial Advisory body for them to act on the issue, adding that this would only happen after a date had been set for his trial.


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