Sunday, December 5, 2021

Secret documents raise questions about Botswana’s independence of the Judiciary

One Botswana judge has confessed to being indebted and loyal to President Lt Gen Ian Khama while another has confessed to being prone to influence by mob psychology “which often results in poor decision making.”

 

This emerged in confidential letters addressed to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) this week as Botswana’s judicial crisis lurches through a comedy of errors.

 

Two weeks ago, Justice Kholisani Solo wrote to the JSC withdrawing his signature from the petition against Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo. In his letter Justice Solo states: “I fully realize the embarrassment caused to the Chief Justice and the appointing authority and apologise unapologetically about it. I express my loyalty to the Chief Justice and appointing authority who stood for my appointment when I was in my moment of despair.” The appointing authority is President Khama.

 

Justice Barnabas Nyamadzabo on the other hand wrote to the JSC last week to withdraw from the Petition. Justice Nyamadzabo stated that, “on proper reflection I have decided to withdraw entirely my association with the said petition and profusely apologise to the Honourable Chief Justice for everything said in the above mentioned petition disparaging his character. When I attended the Mahalapye meeting leading up to the signing of the petition my sole intention was to hear out and seek to understand from our four (4) colleagues the challenges they faced. As things turned out I was soon caught up in group think which often results in poor quality decision making.”

 

Another judge, Justice Bengbame Sechele also wrote to the JSC to withdraw from the petition. Justice Sechele stopped short of admitting that he acted on impulse, saying “I have taken time to reflect further on the letter under reference and have resolved to unreservedly retract my association with same. I further take this opportunity to unreservedly apologise to you for the contents thereof.”

 

The three judges are among 12 judges who have signed a petition seeking to impeach Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo. Their decision to withdraw from the petition follows a divide a rule campaign allegedly orchestrated by the office of the President.

 

The three judges have admitted to being part of the petition, however at the time of going to press it was not clear if the trio will be offered amnesty and if the same opportunity will be extended to Justice Dingake, Justice Letsididi, Justice Garekwe and Justice Busang who are being investigated by a tribunal set up by President Khama. All the 12 judges are at risk of being fired should the tribunal find Justice Dingake, Justice Letsididi, Justice Garekwe and Justice Busang guilty.

 

The tribunal set up to investigate the quartet will try to establish “whether the letter was indeed written by them and the petition signed by them. The tribunal will also determine if that amounts to misbehaviour within the meaning of Section 97 (3) and if so whether the judges ought to be removed.

 

Although the first leg of the investigation will focus only on the four judges the outcome will be extended to seven other judges who signed the petition. The eighth judge has since withdrawn his signature.

 

A letter from the Attorney General to the Registrar and Master of the High Court signed by Nchunga Nchunga and dated 10 September states that, the “decision of the court will have far reaching consequences in guiding all the stakeholders and generations to come in handling similar issues.”

 

Sunday Standard is informed that the outcome of the case involving the four judges will decide how the other eight judges are dealt with.

 

Sunday Standard can further reveal that at a meeting between the Chief Justice and President Khama, where a decision to suspend the four judges was taken, President Khama wanted to suspend all 12 judges who had signed the petition. Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, however advised the president against suspending all 12 judges saying it would lead to a judicial crisis. Justice Dibotelo proposed that only the four judges should be suspended and dealt with in the meantime. It was agreed that the remaining eight would be dealt with in due course.

 

 

 

In a bid to head off a possible judicial crisis, the Office of the President has approached a number of judges who have signed the petition and promised them amnesty in exchange for withdrawal from the petition.

 

At least four judges have so far been left out of the amnesty deal, among the Justice Moroka, Justice Nthomiwa and Justice Leburu. READ INDEPTH FOR DETAILS

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