Judge says Khama did not interfere with judicial independence
The State President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama has been vindicated in his actions of suspending the four judges of the High court and appointing a tribunal to investigate them for alleged misconduct and theft of state money.
At the beginning of this week, the Lobatse High court ruled that in appointing the Tribunal and subsequently suspending the judges, Khama acted in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and did not in any way interfere with the judicial independence.
“The first respondent (Khama) invoked the provisions of section 97 of the constitution to appoint a Tribunal to determine the alleged misbehaviour of the Applicants (Judges). He then suspended the applicants pending an investigation into their fitness to hold office. The Judges are alleged to have undermined the authority of the Chief Justice and acted in a manner that was damaging to the Judiciary by addressing his conduct against them and for having signed a petition addressed to the JSC seeking the Chief Justice’s impeachment,” Judge Tebogo Tau ruled.
Last Month, Khama suspended Key Dingake, Seabelo Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang from office following findings by an internal audit that the four Judges have been receiving housing allowances that they were not entitled to amounting to close to P1 Million cumulative.
After that, the Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo reported them to the Police allegedly at the advice of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The Judges are said to have written a strong worded letter to Dibotelo and a petition to the JSC seeking Dibotelo’s impeachment.
The letter and the petition which was signed by many other Judges, according to information before court, were prompted by letters sent by the Chief Justice which informed the Judges of their offences.
However, the President did not take kindly to the Judges actions and viewed it as serious misconduct and therefore suspended them. The Judges took the matter to court in an effort to stop the Tribunal and to defend their images. Their contention was that what the President relied on to make a decision was not sufficiently serious to warrant a Tribunal investigation and to suspend them.
However Justice Tau maintains that, even though common sense dictates that a Judge’s reputation would be tainted by the allegations of serious misconduct, in terms of Botswana constitution, impeachment is entirely dependent on the findings of a Tribunal which is appointed to enquire into the allegations.
“A Tribunal appointed by the President to investigate the question of a judge’s removal from office consists of former judges and it is significant that their recommendation is binding on the President,” Judge Tau further pointed out.
She further added that, given that the Judges’ reputation has already been somewhat tarnished by the wide publication the only way to salvage their reputation is for them to successfully, refute the allegations before the Tribunal.
“Judicial independence is crucial to the courts for the fulfilment of their constitutional role. What is important is that the judiciary shall function independently from the Legislature and the Executive. Because the judiciary plays a pivotal role in enforcement of the supreme law of the land, judges occupy a special position in our society which is recognised by the constitution. A Judge remains a judge until he or she resigns or retires or is removed from office in accordance with the provisions of section 97,” Judge Tau stated.
The said section according to her prohibits the President from removing a Judge from office before first referring the matter he believes to constitute a misconduct to a Tribunal consisting of Judges. The allegations have to be investigated by the Tribunal before the President can dismiss a Judge from office.
The suspended Judges however were of the view that the decision by the President to suspend affording them a right to be heard first was wrong. But Justice Tau is of the view that Khama’s action was justified because, “looking at the subject matter of this case, the nature of the inquiry, the integrity of the judiciary and the interests of the public as well as the provisions of the constitution, this is not a case which requires the applicants to be heard before the decision by the President to appoint a tribunal.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.