Out of court settlements, when they happen because of clean motives are for a greater part, honourable things to see.
This week the four suspended High Court Judges settled their case with Government.
That settlement does not fall into that category.
The settlement only served to feed President Ian Khama’s egomania.
By his nature Khama likes and enjoys humiliating people, especially those he deems as opponents.
The settlement, if one can call it that was reached on President Khama’s terms.
That the judges came to him kowtowing is irrefutably proved by the letters of the settlement.
The judges got away with nothing; not their honour, not their integrity and certainly not that which they had sought to achieve from the beginning ÔÇô justice.
The so-called settlement is by all accounts a fraud and deception on the minds of the public that had wanted the integrity and sanctity of judiciary restored using the case of the suspended judges..
As crafted, the contents of the apology by the judges, as read together with their other letters to the President are not only a humiliation to the quartet but to the entire institution of the judiciary.
A question must now be posited: having vanquished the judiciary, what really is President Khama for?
It is both silly and shortsighted for the executive to derive such undisguised excitement from defeating the judiciary. There is no exceptionalism in such a feat. And democracy is a difficult and rare feat to achieve.
The world over, there are many examples of Governments that are known to have run literally roughshod over their judiciary to an extent that judges compare notes with Office of the president before handing judgments down.
We are not there yet. But we are well and truly on our way.
Such Governments are not held in any high regard. And Botswana Government, as personified by Ian Khama has now become a fully paid up member of that club.
With events of this past week, it is now without doubt that Khama has defeated the judiciary.
But in doing so, he has created a new conundrum which he must resolve. A question must be posited: What really does Khama stand for?
No doubt he would still want to say he is a democrat.
This is a classical case of eating one’s cake and still wanting to have it.
Khama from the beginning has wanted to have the best of both world ÔÇô riding two horses at a time, so to speak.
He has always felt ill at ease with institutions that attempted to put on check his imperial presidential ambitions.
More difficult to understand however is that while seeking to obliterate such institutions he has not abandoned his love to still enjoy the benefits of being called a democratic reformer. Of all his past faults, the current one with the judiciary has been the most bizarre.
It is sickening that Khama wants to present himself as a hero simply because he has used state power and state resources to emasculate an institution whose continued independence from him would only have helped salvage the little semblance of faith in democracy that still remains on his part.
What an irony!
Yet still, to be fair to Khama, on this instance, it was the judges’ fault, or somebody acting on their behalf who started by leaking a one-sided account to their friends in the media, which account sought to falsely present them as returning heroes.
This clearly annoyed the presidency who then published the apology contents of the letters the judges had written.
The judges, or that person acting on their behalf knew so well that the four of them had with tails between their legs sought for forgiveness from the President.
The biggest loser in all this is Justice Key Dingake, easily one of Botswana’s foremost intellectuals.
Not only was prior to his suspension, a senior judge, he also was only a heartbeat away from becoming the country’s Chief Justice.
From the onset, Dingake was a marked man. Khama’s administration was abnormally suspicious of him ÔÇô often toxically briefing about his pro-opposition leftist inclinations.
It is not an exaggeration to suspect that given Khama’s brazen abuse of intelligence services, Dingake’s private life would for some time have been a subject of surveillance by the country’s heavily politicized intelligence services, snooping on him for any possible transgressions. When the Chief Justice reported him to Botswana police service for acts of possible criminality the dice was cast. The other three judges have often cut an image of collateral damage.
An immensely proud man, heavy public criticism that has followed the apology must no doubt have left him feeling alone and lone.
He is to blame for most of it.
He has inadvertently played into Khama’s hands.
A distinguished law professor, Dingake’s chances of now becoming Chief Justice are equivalent to those of an undergraduate law student.
He might yet regain his position as the first in line. But full rehabilitation will be so difficult as to be impossible. To say he has blown his chances ÔÇô first with the housing allowances saga, and now with a ham-fisted apology – is to understate the sadistic excesses of those who now have all his fate in their hands.
He now looks more like a blast from the past than an object of the future.
If in the end he becomes Chief Justice, Dingake would have been able to rewrite history and assure himself a venerable place in history of coming under his own terms ÔÇô almost akin to rising from the dead.
Optimists continue to insist that the out of court settlement between Khama and the judges will usher in a new era of normality. May be they are right. But for now it has with it a feeling of hoping against hope.
If by normality they mean Khama lording over the judges, and the judges always watching over their shoulders before giving their judgments in case they annoyed the master, then of course the optimists are absolutely right.
Other than that, then they are deluding themselves.
This is because by definition Khama has no mercy, knows none of it and never gives any.
Nobody should for now be holding their breath!