Newly elected Law Society of Botswana (LSB) Council has promised to tighten loose ends in local attorneys’ professional competencies. The Law Society strives to provide best practices, standards of ethics and information for members of the legal profession to improve professional conduct between members, their clients and the public.
Speaking to Weekend Post this week, the newly elected Chairman, Diba Diba highlighted that “we regulate the practice of law” but emphasized that they, “will not be merely regulating but to empower members to carry their practice and run well and profitable law firms.” Diba said this following their inaugural meeting on Friday which was intended to familiarize the new committee members with the current issues affecting the Council and by extension the legal fraternity in Botswana.
According to Diba, there are few priority areas that as LSB they would want to deal with from the onset that includes a particular attention on grooming young attorneys to rise quickly to the required standards in the profession. “We have to thoroughly train young lawyers that just completed their law studies as the focal point. This is precisely because their interests are divergent from that of senior Counsels. So we will continue with the legal education on the young ones,” Diba told this publication.
The new LSB chairman further went on to stress that the Council has a vigorous programme on advocacy and training when lawyers complete school adding that they train them to make them court ready. Even the more experienced lawyers, he added that they also will organize training for them because they need to understand the Accountants to effectively run their own law firms.
He continued: “Its lawyers’ businesses and any problem with Accounting is their responsibility. We will train them as lawyers on how to manage Financial Accounts despite having employed Accountants at their respective law firms.” In addition to the trainings, Diba stated that Law Society also want attorneys to familiarize themselves with the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) which most of them are not in touch with.
He observed: “there is FIA for anti-money laundering law which has requirements that lawyers need to adhere to which is one of the requirements in Know Your Customers (KYC). As LSB, we want lawyers to familiarize themselves with the Act. So we help such members comply with the Act.” The newly designated Chairman also said that they will crack the whip on non-compliant lawyers who drag the name of the profession in the mud. He said this in cognizant that for lawyers to be allocated a practicing certificate, they need to have their accounts audited so as to be qualified.
“Every year, LSB sends a list of non-compliant lawyers but we believe as new Council we can help the attorneys not to make it into the list. In fact we don’t want that list, we don’t want anyone making it in that list. We do not wish anyone do not obtain a practicing certificate,” Diba pointed out.
Legal Practitioners Act to be amended
Diba explained that in terms of the proposed amendments of the Legal Practitioners Act, they seriously need to look into the law and see whether it is appropriate in this time and era, having been passed in 1996. He reminisced that in December last year High Court ruled that lawyers are now free to advertise, so that essentially would mean that the Act has to be amended and possibly see what else to amend in the Act.
“With regard to the lawyers’ advertisement, the said judgement says we need to change the law, and that if lawyers advertise, what are the parameters. LSB will come with regulations for lawyers to advertise in which court gave us 6 months and if the government is to appeal they only have 6 weeks,” he said. The Law Society of Botswana discharges a dual role; on the one hand it regulates its members and on the other hand it represents the professional welfare of its members and the new Council has set the tone on what they will be judged with at the end of their two year term.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.