The four judges who were recently suspended from the bench have hit back at President Ian Khama, saying their suspension creates the impression that the charges against them have substance and creates the perception that they are guilty and corrupt.
After suspending the four judges, Khama appointed a tribunal to investigate them for possible misconduct. They are alleged to have disrespected the Chief Justice and occupied residential accommodation provided by and paid for by government while at the same time receiving housing allowances from government. The four judges are; Justices Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Rainer Busang.
In court papers filed in a bid to halt the tribunal, the judges accuse Khama of suspending them and appointing a tribunal to enquire into their fitness to hold office without affording them an opportunity to be heard. They argued that this was a violation of their constitutional rights, including the right to equal protection under the law, freedom of expressions and the independence of the judiciary. The four judges argue that for each day that they are on suspension their reputations and standing as judges continues to suffer.
“A tribunal has been appointed and has started its work. If the tribunal is allowed to sit or commence its work before the application is heard, the applicants will have been unnecessarily exposed to a process that only damages their standing and does little or nothing else,” the four judges argued.
They added that the tribunal, having been appointed, can sit at any time and its process will do irreparable harm to their reputation. The judges further said stopping a tribunal after it has started its work will become difficult to achieve and will not undo any damage that will have occurred to their reputations. The four judges filed an urgent application last Wednesday in a move to bar the sitting of the tribunal.
“It is clear that if the matter is only heard in due course, irreparable harm will result. Hence, it is crucial for the four judges, the members of Public and the Judiciary that the matter is heard on an urgent basis,” they said.
They further said there is no other alternative remedy, as this was one matter where the usual forms of service or process should be dispensed with so that the matter is heard urgently. They added that: “This matter raises very important and weightily constitutional matters of great importance in a democracy such as of Botswana.”
The four suspended judges further emphasized that matters of this nature can also not await a hearing in due course and need to be addressed and adjudicated upon with expediency having due regard to their impact on the country as a whole.