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Suspended Judges sue Khama, Chief Justice

Judges sue Khama for their suspension pending investigations

The four suspended Judges Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang this week filed an urgent application before the High Court to challenge their recent suspension from the bench by President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama.

In suspending them, Khama has beseeched section 97 of the constitution and effectively suspended the Judges for alleged “misbehavior.”  The suspension came after claims were laid against the said judges for receiving misallocated housing allowances while staying in government houses.

Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo is said to have reported the quartet to the police for investigation and to face criminal charges where need be. In addition the Judges were reprimanded for having undermined the authority of the Chief Justice and to have acted in manner that was damaging to the judiciary.

They are accused of addressing a letter to Dibotelo (and copied to all other judges) criticizing his conduct against them; and signed a petition addressed to the Judicial Service Commission seeking the Chief Justice’s impeachment, the issue which is also said to have irked the Chief Justice.

Following the suspension of the Judges, Khama also appointed a tribunal to investigate the quartet and if found guilty of any wrong doing on the matter they may be removed from office.

In court papers passed to Weekend Post and filed before Justice Tau, the Judges want to declare invalid the decision of President Khama to suspend them pending the outcome of the tribunal’s investigation.  

In fact they also want the court to set aside that decision to appoint that tribunal to investigate them (with the potential for removal from judicial office).

The four argue in the papers that: “the decision to establish a tribunal and/or to suspend the applicants (Judges) violates the rule of law and/or the applicants (Judges)’s rights to equal protection of the law, and is unconstitutional.”

They further state that the decision to establish a tribunal and to suspend them violates the very constitutional tenet of judicial independence, as well as their rights to freedom of expression.

The issue of separation of powers comes into play

According to Justice Dingake, in his founding affidavit, the matter raises concerns over the separation of powers and the need to safeguard the judiciary against improper interference by the Executive.
In the affidavit, the suspended Judge pointed out that the decision to suspend them on the grounds advanced violated the tenet of judicial independence and the proper separation of powers.

Independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression

“I am advised and verily believe that the manner in which the president dealt with this matter undermines the independence of the judiciary to the extent that it suggest that there is no security of tenure,” he said.

The housing allowance saga

Dingake, a progressive judge who is seen as the main target in the matter explained in court papers that it appears that housing allowances were mistakenly paid to the four judges, and they established that it’s not only them but two other judges, “in what was an administrative oversight by Administration of Justice or its accounting officer.”


He said they were not afforded an opportunity to be heard before the president took his decision to appoint a Tribunal and to suspend them. As a consequence, these decisions were taken in breach of the requirements of natural justice and procedural fairness, the Justice stated in the affidavit.


 “As soon as we had knowledge of the oversight, we offered to repay the housing allowances. Any suggestion that the Judges have perpetrated a criminal act in relation to the housing allowances is baseless.”

Does the president have powers to suspend Judges?

President Khama is said to have invoked section 97 of the constitution to suspend the judges, and to appoint a tribunal to investigate them.


Section 97 (2) states: “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 or from any other cause) or for misbehavior, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section.”


Subsection (3) of the same section continues to state that “if the president considers that the question of removing a judge of the High Court under this section ought to be investigated then (a) he 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 inquire 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 aforementioned or for misbehavior, the president shall remove such judge from office.”


“If the question of removing a judge of the High court from the office has been referred to a tribunal under subsection (3) of this section, the President may suspend the judge from performing the functions of his office, and any such suspension may at any time be revoked by the President and shall in any case cease to have effect if the tribunal advises the President that the judge ought not to be removed from office,” section 97 (5) reads.


According to Dingake’s affidavit, he has been advised and verily believes that the President’s power to suspend a judge is subject to the constitution and the law. He said it must not be exercised in manner that undermines judicial independence (a constitutionally enshrined principle).


“As a consequence, the decision to suspend a judge must be carefully considered in light of the particular facts of the case. As such, the grounds for a suspension must be sufficiently serious to warrant an immediate removal from office.

Otherwise no judge can feel free to exercise their judicial independence for fear that they may be the subject of an investigation and/or suspension.”


He continued to state that the constitution protects the judge’s security of tenure and ensures that it should not be easy to remove a judge from office.


Dingake said there is the Judicial Code of Conduct in place which sets the standard to which judges must adhere. “It sets out a number of rules to safeguard the independence of the judiciary and to ensure that judges act with impartiality, integrity, equality and diligence.”

Why the matter needs urgent attention

The four suspended judges, through their lawyers at Chibanda Makgalemele and Company Attorneys, have said the matter is of paramount urgency because each day the Judges are on suspension their reputations and standing as judges continue to suffer.


“Their suspension creates the impression that the charges against them have substance and ultimately, the suspension creates the perception that they are guilty and corrupt,” they asserted.


They also state that the suspension (and the publicity that surrounds it) creates the perception that the judiciary lacks independence from the executive. “This erodes public confidence in the judiciary. It is imperative that this perception be speedily dispelled.”


In addition, the Judges posit that the suspension prejudices members of the public and litigants whose matters are before them (judges). A number of these matters have already been heard and are awaiting judgement.


“Other matters have been set down for the coming weeks. These matters will be delayed or postponed. The magnitude of this disruption and delay must not be underestimated.”


To put the matter into perspective, each of the suspended judges have a minimum of 300 active files and this translates to 1200 files that need to be managed and/or relocated amongst the remaining Gaborone and Lobatse judges thus rendering their already heavy workload impossible, they highlighted.  


They further pointed out that: “this matter raises very important and weighty constitutional matters of great importance in a democracy such as ours. Matters of this nature can also not wait a hearing in due course and need to be addressed and adjudicated upon with expediency having due regard to their impact on the country as a whole.”


The case is expected to be a make or break for the judiciary of the country and will be heard before Justice Tau next week Thursday.

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Details emerge in suspected Batswana poachers in Namibia

28th June 2022
suspected Motswana poacher arrested

New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.

The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.

It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong.  According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.

Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.

“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.

According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”

He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.

Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.

“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.

Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”

He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.

He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”

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Gov’t, Unions clash over accommodation

28th June 2022
accomodation

The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.

This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.

A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”

“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.

“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.

According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.

The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.

The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation.
The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.

“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”

The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”

“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022
BPF

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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