Monday, April 12, 2021

Plan to flush out citizen magistrates exposed

A whispered plan by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to flush citizen Magistrates out of the system and replace them with expatriates has plunged the country’s judiciary into a crisis.

Batswana magistrates who have resolved to paralyze offices staffed by expatriates as part of the grand plan revealed this week that they have “sufficient evidence to suggest that there is a carefully crafted plan to frustrate Batswana magistrates out of the system and then staff most of the management positions with expatriates.”

Citizen Magistrates, at their meeting of June 16th, resolved to boycott the office of the supervisor of magistrates, manned by Takura Charumbira, a Zimbabwean expatriate whose controversial appointment is believed to be part of the JSC’s grand plan to frustrate Batswana magistrates out of the system.

Chief Justice, Julian Nganunu, was this week under pressure to revoke Charumbira’s questionable appointment as Assistant Registrar and Master of the High Court.

According to documents passed to The Sunday Standard, although Charumbira never applied for the post and “his performance record as per monthly returns did not justify his appointment” he was handpicked ahead of more deserving citizens who had applied for the post.

Resolutions made by citizen magistrates on June 16th and a petition by citizen magistrates presented to the JSC on Thursday, copies of which have been passed to The Sunday Standard reveal how regular procedure was flouted to appoint Charumbira ahead of more qualified citizens who had applied for the post.

The June 16th meeting of magistrates “resolved that as the appointment is unprocedural and unmerited all correspondence sent to Magistrates by Mr. T. Charumbira be ignored. The meeting observed with shock that Mr. T. Charumbira purports to act as supervisor for Magistrates. This is objectionable and all correspondence from his office will henceforth be ignored.”

Citizen Magistrates have further called for “an audit of the performance records of all the applicants and determine if Charumbira “merited this appointment.”
It also emerged that as part of the Administration of Justice (AOJ) plan to frustrate citizen magistrates out of work and retain expatriates, Magistrate Shavirai Mawere, an expatriate magistrate with an alleged documented record of poor performance, was promoted and paid a salary for six months while he was no longer employed by the AOJ.

The petition by magistrates presented to the JSC this week states: “The case of Magistrate Shavirai Mawere eloquently illustrates the total disregard of performance records in promotion of magistrates. The concerned magistrate is a known non performer. He has consistently had his contract renewed despite evidence of poor performance. His contract ended in November 2006.

Before renewal the Gaborone Chief Magistrate advised the Registrar’s office of the magistrate’s performance and advised against renewal. Events that followed shocked us all. Firstly, in December 2006, without a contract the said magistrate is promoted to Principal Magistrate. Two things are wrong about this promotion: Firstly, at the time Mawere was not an employee of AOJ as he did not have a contract and, therefore, did not warrant a promotion. This is contrary to clause 221 of the General Orders Governing Conditions of Service of the Public Service of 1996 which says that ”the completion of a contract severs the relation between the officer and the employer.” The officer can, therefore, not be promoted after the end of his contract and before being granted a new contract. Secondly, the said promotion flouted clause 218.2 of the General Orders. Even after his contract expired, the officer was left on the payroll and has, between December 2006 and May 2007, been earning a salary without either a contract or doing any job.”

Citizen Magistrates at their June 16th meeting resolved that “re-employment of this individual totally flies in the face of all productivity principles and must be opposed. The presence of this officer on the payroll for six months without contract is further noted as unusually reckless.”

Citizen Magistrates also suggest bad faith in the appointment of Principal Magistrate T. Ngitami to the post of Assistant Registrar and Master. Their meeting of June 16th “recalled Management statements made on the 8th of March 2007 that Principal Magistrates will no longer be promoted to Assistant Registrar as they would be jumping scale. Once again, management applies principles selectively.”

Batswana Magistrates point to the questionable appointment of an expatriate, an “unknown” Jacob Manzunzu, to the post of Deputy Registrar and Master of the High Court ahead of more deserving citizens as further proof of a well orchestrated plan to frustrate citizens out of the system. States the magistrates’ petition: “In 2003, the post of Deputy Registrar and Master became available following departure of Mr. Abram Keetshabe to the Attorney General Chambers. Mr. Bashi Moesi who incidentally was the Registrar’s classmate and with formidable experience from the private sector was available and doing the job. Suddenly he was overlooked and Mr. Jacob Manzunzu appointed Deputy Director and Master.

Also available at the High Court at the time was Regional Magistrate Terence Rannoane. He was also overlooked in favour of the unknown Manzunzu.

“In the unlikelihood that Mr. Jacob Manzunzu offered anything more than the other two local candidates, government policy on localization demands that a local be put as his understudy. No Motswana has been placed as understudy to the expatriate Deputy Director and Master Mr. Jacob Manzunzu who was appointed in 2003. What does this communicate about the future of the organization?”

It further emerged from the documents passed to The Sunday Standard that the plan is not only succeeding in driving away citizen magistrates, but is also paralyzing the judiciary and bringing down standards.

The petition presented to the JSC this week states that, “like all other government formations, the AOJ subscribes to a performance management system whose aim is to improve service delivery in the judiciary. Critical to this system is the performance measurement yardstick known and agreed by all. Above that, magistrates send monthly returns to the High Court. The purpose of these monthly returns is to provide management with a tool to monitor the performance of magistrates across the country. Painfully while magistrates send these monthly returns to the High Court no one reads them. In fact, the last person to read and regularly monitor these returns was the deputy Registrar and Master Mr. Abram Keetshabe. There is, therefore, no supervision of magistrates by headquarters. In the absence of supervision, the criteria used to hand pick magistrates for promotions remains a mystery.


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