The Office of the President hatched the plan that helped President Ian Khama usurp the power of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to choose judges ÔÇô this is suggested by fresh information passed to The Sunday Standard.
Reforms in the appointment of judges, which have been sneaked through the backdoor, extend Khama’s power beyond being an appointing authority and frees his hand to pick judges of his choice.
Legal Affairs Manager at the Office of the President, Bongi Radipati, is credited as the brains behind the new system of judicial appointments and is alleged to have lobbied some members of the JSC to adopt it.
Radipati has, however, denied masterminding the new system but admitted that he supports it and believes it is a “much better process.” He told Sunday Standard that, “I have talked to people in an intellectual setting…that they might have become JSC members or conveyed my views to JSC members is entirely out of my knowledge and power,” he said.
“If you ask me as a lawyer I would have said the way to go is to free the hand of the President…You cannot give someone power and then fault him for exercising that power,” he added.
He said that the previous system was insufficient as it ‘tied the President’s hand’ despite the fact that he was empowered by the constitution to be the appointing authority.
Radipati defended the new system saying it was insulated from external influences. He said that the President does not come up with his own names but rather is given a slate of names by the JSC to choose from.
He said that the President had a right to agonise over the individuals he wanted to appoint. Radipati said when compared to previous arrangement during the Masire and Mogae Presidency the new system of appointment was much better. He said the law society’s concerns were unreasonable. “It’s unreasonable unhappiness,” he said, criticising the law society.
In an interview with the Sunday Standard this week, the Chairman of the Law Society of Botswana, Tebogo Sebego, confirmed that the Law Society had, during its last meeting, discussed the issue of appointment of judicial officers.
He, however, could not discuss much on the issue until their representative at the JSC has briefed the JSC at its next meeting.
He said that it was the Law Society’s position that the constitutional responsibility had to be followed to the letter, adding that the recent reform was unconstitutional because the constitution was explicit that the president was suppose to act on the names forwarded to him by the JSC as opposed to the new arrangement where the President is given a list of names.
“It’s not for the President to choose from a list,” said Sebego.
He did not rule out the possibility of the Law Society challenging the JSC in court over the recent appointments.
However, the Sunday Standard has it on good authority that some members of the Law Society want the society to withdraw its representative from the JSC as protest.