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The other side to the judges story

The story about the suspension of the four Judges has been widely covered by the independent media and as such, I will rely on the assumption that such reports are correct. My debate therefore seeks to find out whether the Judges are blameworthy in the payment of housing allowances to themselves.

The suspension, as reported, is for the Tribunal appointed by the President in terms of Section 97 of the Constitution to inquire into the conduct of the four suspended Judges. Section 97(2) says “a judge of the High Court may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind of any other cause) or from misbehaviour, and shall be removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section”.

Section 97(3) of the same constitution says “if the President considers that the question of removing a Judge of the High Court under this section ought to be investigated then he shall appoint a tribunal…… Further, Section 97(4) says “where a tribunal appointed under subsection (3) of this section advises the President that a judge of the High Court ought to be removed from office for inability as aforesaid or for misbehaviour, the President shall remove such judge from office”. I have never imagined that a judge could be removed for misbehaving but the Act says so.

Misbehaviour could be wrongful conduct, misconduct or wrongdoing. Did the judges misbehave when they were unduly paid the allowance? To answer this question (and I am doing so from a lay man’s point of view), one has to consider that due to the sensitivity of a judicial office, expectations and standards are extremely high and this may very well explain why they are more in the public eye than the paying officer.

Attention to detail to little or no margin of error could be some of the attributes expected of judges and as such, failure to satisfy them puts them on the back foot in the context of the Act.

I recall reading that a lady judge was removed from office in one of African states for refusing to be searched at the entrance of a shopping mall presumably owing to her high profile position. This shows that misbehaving occurs in different types and forms and could lead to the removal of a judge.

Did the judges do enough to repel attracting Section 97? I don’t think so. Judges themselves admit that they have unduly received the allowance and further that they are/were willing to pay back. It is important to know whether the willingness to reimburse was the initial reaction as soon as they became aware that they were paid this allowance or whether this is the case now that the matter has been reported to the police.

Regardless of the perceived or real turbulent relationship between them and their employer, the judges have passed the judicial temperament test (manner of thinking, behaving or reacting expected of a judge) if they took action to stop further payment as soon as they became aware of it.

If the latter is the case (willingness to pay after reporting to the police) the judges, in my view, have failed the judicial temperament test and should with respect, face the tribunal and put their arguments on the table. They would have been reactive instead of being proactive.

All in all, both parties have their own fair share of blameworthiness and as such, Section 97(4) will determine the fate of the concerned judges. I am not, however, oblivious to the fact that judges have reasonable aggravating factors amongst them: (a) employer failed to apply the audi alteram partem (hear the other person’s story) principle before reporting the matter to the police (b) the judges have admitted receipt of such allowances and have demonstrated willingness to reimburse it. 

But are these strong enough factors coupled with other considerations to sway the tribunal in advising the President not to remove them notwithstanding the real or perceived turbulent relationship between the parties? Looking at the composition of the tribunal, one is hopeful that fairness and objectivity will rule supreme.

Will the Judges and/or the Chief Justice resign before the conclusion of the investigation? Time will tell.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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