Four suspended judges of the High Court, being Justices Key Dingake; Modiri Letsidi; Mercy Garekwe; and Ranier Busang have this week moved an application at High Court calling for the recusal of panel of judges scheduled to hear their case on the matter in which they are challenging their suspension.
The panel which the four Judges does not want chairing on their case comprises of Justices Singh Lackvinda Walia, Zibani Makhwade and Leatile Dambe.
They detest them sitting together in a panel as presiding Judges, in the main application for the review of the decisions taken by the Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
President Khama suspended the quartet for challenging Chief Justice Dibotelo's move of threatening to report them to the Police for criminal investigation as they were receiving housing allowances while staying in official residences. It was said that they were not entitled to the housing allowance.
The suspended Judges then hauled Khama to court questioning their suspension and highlighting to court that it was unconstitutional and that Khama in earnest does not have powers to suspend Judges.
In the fresh notice of motion filed on Thursday the suspended judges stated in their renewed application that they want court to make an order “that the Honourable Justice(s) Walia, Makhwade and Dambe recuse as presiding Judges in respect of this matter and in its entirety.”
According to the suspended foursome: “Justices (Walia, Dambe and Makhwande) have on various occasions shown us to be partial and displayed unwarranted impatience with our attorneys.”
The Judges, who have been put ‘on the back banner’ serving suspension explained in the court papers that “to date, our attorney has not delayed filing papers and has been forthcoming on all the facts, in an attempt to assist the court to expedite the hearing of this matter.”
They stressed that under circumstances their apprehension and perception that the Justices are biased against them is as palpable as it is reasonable. “Further it is reasonable to believe that they have prejudged the merits or otherwise, prior to argument of the review,” the judges on hold pointed out.
They insist that in the interest of a fair hearing and protection of their constitutional rights a recusal of the Honourable Justices is the only option.
Having served the country on the bench for a number of years, the suspended Judges put on ice said they are alive to the sensitivities attending an application of this nature. “However, the fact that such sensitivities subsist, ought not to bar a litigant from securing a fair hearing.”
According to the quartet up in the air the recusal application is not an indictment on the judicial profession at large; but an attempt to bring to light some concerns which any litigant is entitled to highlight.
“We were of the further view that anyone or more of our colleagues faced with hearing the matter and adjudicating upon it would invariably find themselves in a difficult and invidious position and we therefore were of the view that the appointment of a foreign bench comprising three judges (alternatively the appointment of a three judge panel of the most senior High Court judges) would be most appropriate.”
They wanted foreign judges with no known links to Botswana. Since the appointment of Justices Walia, Dambe and Makhwade, matters have proceeded in a manner which calls into question the independence of the court, they said.
Furthermore, the suspended Judges said their constitutional right for recourse through the courts has been compromised and there is a real apprehension that save for a recusal of the three Justices, there is scant opportunity that they will receive a fair hearing in the current interlocutory matters before the court and in the main substantive application for review.
In justifying why the judges need to further recuse themselves, they gave an example that previously, the court and in particular Justices Walia and Dambe took the view that the group of four suspended were unnecessary delaying the matter. These incidents at the hands of Justices Walia and Dambe was a foreshadowing of unwarranted hostility and ultimately bias from the court as against the applicants, they put to the fore.
They also categorically stated that: “the question of recusal of a judge(s) is a constitutional matter which goes to the right of a litigant to a fair hearing before an impartial court, in terms of section 10 (9) of the constitution.” It was said that it is therefore vital for the court to bear in mind that the suspended judges’ rights which stand to be violated should the Justices persist are constitutional rights.
Chibanda Makgalemele & Company represented the four suspended Judges while Attorney General stood in for the Registrar of the High Court, President Khama, JSC and Dibotelo.
The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.
WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?
Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.
Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed. This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.
In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’ The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.
Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama).
Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.