Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The judiciary should remain insulated from all influences

It now sounds like a cliché, but it remains true that in a democracy, the judiciary is the last line of defence.

The importance of an independent judiciary cannot be over emphasized.

Such independence purchases legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Judges such should be well paid.

It is dangerous to have a judiciary that often complains about their salaries and allowances.

Even wrong is to have judges that are more concerned about the kind of official cars they drive in.

We need judges that get more preoccupied with reading the law than making money and be seen around driving in flashy cars.

If flashy cars are what they want, then these lawyers should leave the bench and go into business.

Judges are lawyers, not sages so said a former South African judge of the Constitutional Court, Johan Kriggler.

Citizens often give judges the kind of moral standing some on the bench do not deserve.

As ordinary citizens we often believe that upon joining the bench, judges assume a kind of moral pedestal they did not have in their prior life.

The rule of law should not be allowed to become an empty slogan.

Judges should do their work without fear or favour.

They should not be afraid that government or anybody in government

In other countries we have that judges receive kick-backs from people in business.

These kickbacks include cars.

It remains our hope that such things have not arrived in Botswana.

Government should listen and be open to suggestions on how to appoint judges of the High Court, Court of appeal and also the Magistrates Court.

What is important is that the best people who are willing to serve as judges should be given opportunity.

Experience and indeed merit should be rewarded.

This is over and above moral uprightness.

We have in the past seen people join the judiciary based on what looks like connections.

The Judicial service Commission is currently the organ tasked with selecting and interviewing candidates for the judiciary.

The appointment is then done by the President of the Republic.

Judges should never be beholden to politicians.

This is a flawed system.

The makeup of the JSC should be overhauled.

It is loaded in favour of the representatives of the executive.

Too many civil servants sitting on the JSC send an unfortunate signal that the judiciary is an appendage of the civil service – which should not be the case.

Appointing the judges should be loaded with democratic legitimacy and indeed accountability.

Failed lawyers no matter their political connections should never be considered.

Once in service, Judges’ living standards and lifestyles should always be a subject of internal scrutiny and accountability.

This because the last four years have taught us a lot that judges are fallible.

Events of the last four years that included suspensions of High Court judges and also one of the judges facing criminal charges have taught us that there is need for reform.

There is something fundamentally flawed and badly wrong with the current selection and appointment processes.

As Botswana’s economy has grown, so too has been the frequency and also magnitude of cases brought for arbitration before the courts.

Many of these cases are complex. Many of them involve big monetary settlements.

This means there is also a growth for temptation to make money from these.

Judges should also represent the national make-up.

It cannot be right that over fifty years after independence we still have any bench populated largely by expatriates.

The value of an independent judiciary is always clear.

What we need to is to show that political integrity is important to the independent judiciary. And vice versa.

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