Omphemetse Motumise, the High Court judge who couldn’t be, was recommended for the bench by a sitting and former judge at the Francistown High Court. On January 8 this year, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi signed a reference letter in which he details his knowledge of Motumise who had applied for the position of High Court judge. In his letter, Phumaphi says that he has known Motumise since 1996 when they were both elected into the inaugural Council of the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) which he (Phumaphi) was chairman of. When the late Moatlhodi Marumo was appointed judge in 2001, Motumise replaced him as deputy chairman. Phumaphi says that Motumise was “an active member who played a pivotal role in the drafting of the regulations of the Law Society, which together with the Legal Practitioners’ Act form the bedrock of legal practice in Botswana.” A year later, Phumaphi was himself appointed judge and Motumise would argue cases before him. Phumaphi says that this interaction gave him an opportunity to form an impression of Motumise’s advocacy skills. “He acquitted himself as a very capable lawyer,” Phumaphi writes of Motumise. On the whole, the judge found the lawyer to be “an intelligent, hardworking man who would be an invaluable asset to the judiciary were he to be appointed judge.” John Mosojane, a former judge who is now in private practice, says that he first met Motumise in 1997 when he was judge and the latter would have been a lawyer appearing before him. Seven years later, both men served in the Independent Electoral Commission with Mosojane as chairman and Motumise as his deputy. There Motumise impressed Mosojane “as an independent thinker who will not compromise on principle.” Bottom line: “He is a highly capable lawyer who is widely respected by his peers and can handle any legal situation, in my mind. I should add that he is of mature impeccable disposition.”Motumise’s other referees are Professor Clement Ng’ong’ola of the Department of Law at the University of Botswana (UB); Terrence Dambe, the managing partner of Minchin & Kelly (Botswana); and Parks Tafa, the managing partner of Collins Newman & Co. Ng’ong’ola recalls Motumise as “a model student who took his studies seriously” and graduated top of his class in 1989 with an upper second class. Dambe was Motumise’s classmate at UB and “I have no hesitation in stating that Mr. Motumise has the right qualities for being a good judge of the High Court ÔÇô he is hard working, has a very good knowledge of and passion for the law and is a person on integrity.” Tafa, who also met Motumise at UB, says that as a legal practitioner, Motumise “has exhibited thoroughness, intellect, knowledge of the law and superior analytical skills in his work.” The references did what they were supposed to because the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) recommended Motumise for appointment as judge. However, President Ian Khama rejected this recommendation, prompting the LSB to launch a legal challenge that will be heard by a panel of three judges: Justices Abednico Tafa, Singh Walia and Phadi Solomon. LSB and Motumise are the applicants while Khama, JSC and the Attorney General are cited in that order as respondents. The applicants want the court to set aside Khama’s decision not to appoint Motumise.