Sunday, October 25, 2020

MPs taken to task over appointment of industrial court judges

The Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSO) has blamed Members of parliament of both the ruling and opposition parties for the current set up in the appointment of Industrial Court judges.

BOFEPUSO comments came after the Botswana Law Society condemned the appointment of the Industrial Court Judges, citing that the current approach is wrong and needs to be aligned with the provision of the constitution on appointment of Judicial Officers.

BOFEPUSU’s Labour Secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole, has blamed politicians for failing to raise the issue in Parliament that is of paramount importance to citizens though they were aware that the current setup on the appointment of judges was not laid out in the constitution.

Motshwarakgole said that both the ruling and opposition Members of Parliament have failed Batswana by allowing the current setup, which gives the president the power to appoint the judges without consulting anyone.

He said that the legislators have failed Batswana and will continue to disappoint them while they continue to vote them to be their representatives.
Motshwarakgole explained that the Industrial Court judges are appointed by the President under the Trade Disputes Act, without consulting the Judicial Service Commission.

He added that BOFEPUSO has launched a case challenging this arrangement after they became aware that politicians failed Batswana.

According to Motshwarakgole, politicians seem to be in parliament not to serve Batswana but only to settle scores against each other.

However, a Legal Practitioner, Bugalo Maripe, would not agree that the legislators had failed to recognize that there was a vacuum on the issue of appointment of Industrial Court Judges.
He said that it is not yet time to dismiss them because they might not be aware of the issue.
“It is not that they are failing Batswana. Usually the electorates are the ones who should keep them on their toes and alert them about issues of concern,” said Bugalo. “But if people are unable to approach them, they will miss some issues such as this one.”

Lobatse Member of Parliament, Nehemiah Modubule, could not dispute that, as politicians, they had failed to raise the issue that is of paramount importance to Batswana.

Modubule believes that the issue of appointment of industrial court justice is a critical one that needs urgent attention.

“We need to correct that and I can only promise that I will meet with the leadership of the party on the issue,” said Modubule. “I can then take proper channels after meeting with the leadership of Botswana Movement for Democracy.”

He emphasized that the current manner of appointment, which gives the President the powers to appoint judges without consulting anyone, has a serious bearing on the independence of the judiciary.

He said that the appointment of Industrial Court Judges should be laid down in the constitution, just like the appointment of High Court Judges, though President Ian Khama has been accused of declining names proposed by the Judicial Services Commission.

Modubule said that it will be out of context to allow the president to continue appointing the Judges because the appointment could be politically aligned.

He said that as legislators they should treat the issue as an urgent matter before the courts are occupied by judges that are politically aligned to some political parties.

However, the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu, disputed that the appointment of judges was politically aligned.

He said that there is nothing wrong with the current setup because the judges continue to do their work diligently.

Batshu explained that there was nothing wrong with the appointment of judges since their appointment was established by law.

On accusations that the appointment of the current Industrial Court Judges was made on the basis of political affiliation, the minister referred such questions to the Office of the President.
He said that he would not comment on the matter since the appointment was done by the President.
The Botswana Law Society (BLS) has also raised concerns about the appointment of the industrial court judges in their position paper on appointment of High Court Judges.

In a recent position paper, the BLS called for the appointment of the judges to be aligned with the constitutional demands concerning the appointment of judicial officers.

The BLS stated in the paper that the current approach is wrong and needs to be aligned with the provision of the Constitution on appointment of other Judicial Officers.

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