Friday, September 18, 2020

The legal dispute between Gov’t and public servants need not be acrimonious

For ordinary citizens not schooled in law, the unfolding saga that has pitted the State on one hand and the public servants on the other, there are perceptions that we may be headed for a situation where the State will one day openly defy court orders.

We pray that we are wrong, but from where we are standing it seems to us that there is general reluctance on government to honour court judgments.

If that is true, then government detractors who, we want to concede, are often alarmists are right to be disquiet over this new trend.

Just why does it all of a sudden seem to an increasing number of people that when it loses a court case the Government only obliges not only grudgingly but also with a pinch of salt.
This is not what Botswana is known for the world over.

We hope we are not headed for Zimbabwe when, at the start of the country’s degeneration, thugs were often unleashed onto the streets by the Government and ruling part to willfully undermine the pronouncements of the judiciary.

We hope we are not headed for Zimbabwe where the President deliberately made it one of his important tasks to purge the judiciary of those judges deemed too independent, or in the parlance of the ruling party in that country counterÔÇôrevolutionary.

It is yet another of our hopes that we are not headed for Zimbabwe where the Head of State stacked the judiciary with his stooges who did only the Government’s bidding leading to not just the erosion of judicial independence but also rights of individuals as well as certainty often provided by rule of law.

Investors are a very fragile people. And once they get a slightest impression that their investments may not be protected by law, they will not commit their money into Botswana.

Where they have already committed their money, they will slowly take it out or retreat wholesale overnight,

We use the current standoff between Government and the public servants as a case study.
But there is a history to it.

The case between Government of Botswana and Basarwa of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve marked a terrible and lamentable departure from what this country is well known for when it comes to respecting, implementing and honouring court judgments without resorting to reckless legal technicalities that are as a strategy only meant to humiliate and punish individuals who would have dared to resort to the courts for protection against government.

We hope we are not headed for a replay of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve case, whereupon losing, the government resorted to a disingenuous technicality of saying only those Basarwa who had been applicants could go back into the Reserve, while it was a known fact that a few names had been used to represent hundreds of their tribesmen who had been dislodged from the reserve.

The judiciary remains the bulwark of our democracy.

Like its sanctity, the independence has to be respected. It also has to be guarded jealously.
While we are wholly awake to the undercurrents at play surrounding the true reasons behind government’s decision to outsource its legal services on this matter, it remains our ardent hope that respect for the judiciary by government is one message that the Attorney General, herself a former High Court Judge and now Principal Legal Advisor to both Government and the President keeps harping to her colleagues and clients in Government.

There is no need for the kind of grandstanding currently in play. Government is well in order to appeal the judgment if they feel strongly about it.

In doing so, we call on the state to always exercise restraint well aware of the scales in the balance of power that are so heavily in favour of the state.

Government should not be seen to be humiliating those that win court cases against the State.
Having said so, we want to call on the public servants to also exercise restraint.

Too much triumphalism can only lead to hardening of attitudes. And that is not what this country needs this time around.

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