Botswana Public Employees’ Union (BOPEU) is preparing to drag President Lt Gen Ian Khama before court in a bid to compel him to set up a tribunal to investigate the fitness of both Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo and Judge Dr Kholisani Solo to continue holding office.
At the beginning of this week BOPEU leadership sent an ultimatum to Chief Justice and Justice Dr Kholisani Solo to resign from the judiciary. “Dibotelo has no leadership skills that are necessary to run and manage the country’s judiciary and we call upon him to take the responsibility for the loss of confidence in the judiciary by tendering his resignation,” said Andrew Motsamai, BOPEU president.
BOEPU wants Dibotelo to take with him Justice Dr Solo who recently, amid the judiciary crisis scandal pledged his allegiance to the President of the Republic of Botswana as opposed to the country’s constitution.
The union said on Monday that if the duo does not resign by the end of this week, it with compel the president, if need be, through court action, to invoke Section 97 of the constitution and set up a tribunal to enquire into his fitness to continue holding office.
Section 97 of Botswana constitution states that a judge of the High Court may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his or her office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or from any other cause) or for misbehaviour, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section.
The constitution further states that if the President considers that the question of removing a judge of the High Court under this section (97) ought to be investigated then- (a) he or she shall appoint a tribunal which shall consist of a Chairman and not less than two other members, who hold or have held high judicial office; (b) the tribunal shall enquire into the matter and report on the facts thereof to the President and advise the President whether the judge ought to be removed from office under this section for inability as aforesaid or for misbehaviour.
The duo had not tendered resignations by the end of this week pushing the union to take the court route. BOPEU President said the state in which the judiciary find itself in is too grave to be ignored. “We believe we cannot just sit and watch as these developments unfold,” Motsamai stated.
Motsamai argued that when democracy is under siege, trade unions will suffer from the shrinking democratic and human right space, for the judiciary to properly function, the requirements rely on the integrity and the confidence that the public has on it, he said.
Ever since 2008, unions and government have spend more time in the courts than ever before as the two parties rarely reach a common ground on when differences emerge. BOPEU therefore knows that with scales of justice tilting towards the executive as the recent development imply, workers maybe be hard done by the situation.
The judiciary first came under spot light when Dibotelo accused judges of forum shopping, the remarks which did not go well with his colleagues who were of the view that it undermined the courts as it had the possibility of eroding trust of the citizens on the judiciary.
BOPEU has also contended that the current crisis, which they attribute to poor leadership and bad governance on the part of the chief justice, has a very damaging effect on the credibility and functionality of the judiciary now and in the long run.
In a strange turn of events, BOPEU president spoke highly of Johnson Motshwarakgole’s National Amalgamated Local, Central Government Workers and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGWPWU) also known as Manual Workers Union for taking up the challenge against appointment of Court of Appeal Judges before the High Court.
“They have provided intellectual leadership over a matter of a great national importance. We entirely associate ourselves with their legal contentions and their concerns about the lack of security of tenure of the Court of Appeal Judges.”
The two, Motsamai and Motshwarakgole have not enjoyed the best of relations lately, and have seen the relationship between BOFEPUSU and one of its main affiliates deteriorating.
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.