SEEKING JUSTICE: The case in which four judges of the High Court four suspended judges Key Dingake, Mercy Garekwe, Ranier Busang and Modiri Letsididi want the court to declare invalid their suspension from the bench as well as the decision to appoint a tribunal to investigate them with potential for their removal from judicial office has been postponed to September 28th. President Khama has suspended them for receiving “undeserved accommodation allowances unlawfully”.
President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama has said that he was gravely troubled by the information that the four suspended judges Key Dingake, Mercy Garekwe, Ranier Busang and Modiri Letsididi received undeserved accommodation allowances unlawfully.
Subsequent to suspending the judges, Khama stated in court papers in a judicial marathon case this week that the suspended judges’ alleged misbehavior is that they had been for a considerable amount of time occupied residential accommodation provided for and paid by the government of Botswana whilst at the same time wrongfully receiving a housing allowance from government in lieu of such accommodation.
In the case, the suspended judges want the court to declare invalid their suspension from the bench as well as the decision to appoint a tribunal to investigate them with potential for their removal from judicial office.
A source observing the marathon case on Thursday outside court told Weekend Post that history is not on the suspended Judges’ side. “In African history it shows that if a president appoints a tribunal to investigate judges for misbehavior or whatever they may call it, they did not reappear at the bench,” he said, adding that the said judges are unlikely to come back.
In an answering affidavit filed before court President Khama pointed out that: “I was so gravely troubled by this information as, on the face of it, it implied the possible commission of a serious offence by honourable Judges of the High Court as to be driven to act in order to protect the integrity of the judiciary.”
In addition Khama asserted that he was also informed that following the initiation of the investigation the said judges wrote a letter to the Chief Justice and copied to all other Judges of the High Court and therefore was saddened by the development as well.
“I regard in a very serious light the contents and tone of such letter which, in my view undermines the authority of the Chief Justice of Botswana, and damaging to our judiciary,” he highlighted in the papers.
According to Khama, he is even more concerned about the subsequent letter of the 17th August 2015 which was co-authored by the suspended Judges together with “eight other judges,” which are not applicants in the matter. Although others believe the suspension of the four Judges to be a witch hunt on Justice Dingake as he is seen as a thorn on government side and “anti-government” in his rulings, speculations are rife on the other side that the other judges (eight) may be next on line.
Khama explains why the suspended Judges were not awarded hearing
According to President Khama in his affidavit, he explained that the Judges were not eligible to a hearing pre-suspension. “I did not afford the applicants (suspended Judges) a hearing before their suspension. I have been advised by my attorneys which advise I verily believe to be true that the applicants are not entitled to a pre suspension hearing,” he said.
Khama explained that the suspended judges’ right to be heard has been curtailed as they will be afforded an opportunity to be heard at the tribunal.
President disputes he is interfering in the judiciary
“I deny having any intention of interfering with the composition and functioning of the judiciary as alleged. I therefore deny any suggestion of mala fides on my part,” the President said.
Khama maintains the constitution of Botswana gives him powers
In his affidavit, Khama maintains that he has handled the matter in terms of the power reposed in him by the provisions of the constitution of Botswana and avers that he exercised his discretion judicially.
He stated: “in the circumstances and considering the gravity of this matter I undertook and exercised my discretion in terms of the provisions of the constitution to suspend the four applicants (four Judges) and wrote individual letters to them dated the 26th August 2015 notifying them of my decision as well as the basis thereof.”
Balance of convenience versus preservation of judicial integrity
The fourth president of Botswana has said that he does not take lightly assertions that his decision to suspend judges undermines judicial independence; the right to equal protection before the law and freedom of expression; as well as interfering with the suspended judges’ claimed right to work.
“Further contrary to the assertions of the applicants in their supplementary affidavit, the balance of convenience favours the preservation of the integrity of the judiciary,” he added.
The matter is not urgent – Khama maintains
In his answering affidavit before court, Khama says that he believes that the matter is not urgent. “I wish to emphasize that in the same letter of suspension I disclosed to the Judges that the suspensions will take effect on the 1st September 2015,” Khama highlighted. When suspending them, Khama wrote individual suspension letters to them dated 26th August 2015.
“Thus the applicants (suspended Judges) had sufficient notice not only of the decision to suspend them, but also as to when the said decision will be implemented.” “Consequently I am surprised that the applicants are seeking a stay of events that have already occurred at this hour when they had the opportunity to do so before the 1st September 2015,” he concluded.
Meanwhile the matter will be heard on 28 September before Justice Tebogo Tau who presides over the case as on Thursday he conceded the request to postpone the case by the attorneys of both parties; Attorney General Chambers representing the President as well Chibanda Makgalemele and Company for the suspended Judges.
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.
â€śBotswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,â€ť says Dr. Kwape. He wouldnâ€™t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
â€śWe 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,â€ś 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 â€śGovernment 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.â€ť
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.
â€śSADC 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,â€ť 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.
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 deceasedâ€™s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrateâ€™s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
â€śThe third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,â€ť 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.
â€śYesterday, 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,â€ť 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 12thÂ 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 (Astonâ€™s children) are staying.
â€śThato 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,â€ť 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.
â€śI 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,â€ť 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.
â€śPhillip 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 Mallâ€ť the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the â€śunknown callerâ€ť and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused,Â 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 6thÂ of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
â€śWe spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine â€“ that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,â€ť said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herderâ€™s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,â€ť said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).