President Ian Khama was not the first president to reject the recommendations and advice of the Judicial Service (JSC) on appointment of a candidate to the bench, former University of Botswana (UB) Vice Chancellor and Professor of law Bojosi Otlhogile has revealed.
In an academic paper, Botlhogile revealed that the current President’s father, Sir Seretse Khama rejected the JSC recommendation not to appoint former South African prominent judge Israel Aaron Maisels as Chief Justice.
According to Botlhogile the issues of the President declining to appoint a candidate recommended by the JSC or rejecting its advice is not new saying the same thing happened in 1967, a year after Botswana had gained independence.
Sir Seretse Khama rejected the JSC’s advice not to appoint Maisels.
While he said it could be argued that the Sir Seretse Khama at the time was not bound to seek advice of JSC on the appointment of Maisels Chief Justice, “This maybe first case of rejection of JSC advice’s by the President.”
Botlhogile’s academic paper comes on the heels of a decision by President Ian Khama to refuse to appoint veteran lawyer Omphemetse Motumise. The President has finally appointed Motumise following an order by the Court of Appeal after the Law Society of Botswana had put up a spirited legal battle against President Khama.
Asked to explain circumstances that led to Sir Seretse Khama rebuffing the recommendation of the JSC, Botlhogile told Sunday Standard that when Maisels’ name was suggested as possible Chief Justice then due diligence was done by the JSC.
“They sought information from the then South African police (SAP) which reported that he was a “communist” who routinely represented “terrorists” (i.e. freedom fighters in court,” explained Botlhogile.
Botlhogile further explained that Maisels had also appeared in the Treason Trial.
“On this basis, the JSC did not recommend him. The President (Sir Seretse Khama) indicated these very qualities made him the best man for Botswana,” said Otlhogile.
He said Maisels did not take up the post rather offered to act as Chief Justice until a suitable candidate was found. The suitable candid was later to be John Dendy-Young.
Botlhogile also revealed that before the appointment of Maisels, Sir Seretse Khama could not approach the then Chief Justice Laurence Weston to recommend his replacement because the relationship between the two men had broken down irreparably.
Bojosi stated that “the relationship had deteriorated so much that when he left one officer wrote “We are in the process of getting rid of the most incredible bastard of a Chief Justice that one could ever hope to have had, and as a result, the question of his replacement arises.”