The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has accused President Ian Khama Seretse Khama of manipulating the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by making it recommend the names he wants for appointment of judges.
In court papers filed before the Gaborone High court, the LSB Executive Secretary, Tebogo Moipolai says in so doing the President and the JSC are in contravention of the law that governs the appointment of judges.
“The JSC and the President on their own version, have consistently breached section 103(4) in that the JSC has allowed the President to direct and control it where he refuses to take its advice, causing it to reconvene with a view to recommending the name which the President and not the JSC likes,” Moipolai pointed out.
Moipolai maintains that the Pres8ident does not have any discretion under the provisions of the constitution to decline appointment on criteria that is not considered by the JSC and that there is no room for the President to refuse an appointment on any basis because he is not empowered to act outside the advice of the JSC.
“The second respondent’s argument that section 96(2) has no application where the President declines to appoint a judge recommended by the JSC, is inimical to the doctrine of the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers,” Moipolai contended.
The matter which is yet to be heard in open court before the High court is about the recent decision by President Khama to refuse to appoint a local attorney, Omphemetse Motumise as the judge of the High court. However the case is centred around the interpretation of section 96(2) of the constitution which deals with the extent of the President’s powers in as far as the appointment of judges is concerned.
“In addition to the order reviewing the order and setting aside of the first respondent’s (Khama) decision not to appoint the second applicant (Motumise), the applicants seek further declaratory relief in relation to the first respondent’s powers in terms of section 96(2) of the constitution and the conduct of the JSC in matters relating to the appointment of judges,” Moipolai further noted.
Although Khama has also filed papers detailing his reasons for his actions, the LSB maintains that the information he had brought forward is not enough as he had not explained the real reasons he rejected Motumise.
The LSB is of the view that the President’s contention seeks to undermine the careful balancing of powers enshrined in the constitution.
“The decision of the first respondent is liable to review under the principles of legality and rationally which requires that a decision maker exercise his powers lawfully, rationally and in good faith and does not exceed the powers conferred on him or her by law.
The applicant’s challenge the decision as irrational on the ground that it is ultra vires the powers conferred upon the first respondent by section 96(2) of the constitution,” Moipolai filed his contention against Khama’s view that his decision is not reviewable by the court of law.
Moipolai maintains that Section 127(10) of the Constitution quite clearly gives the court the power to review the exercise of the President’s power, irrespective of whether the power is a constitutional, executive, discretionary or prerogative one.
He further contends that the right of individuals to an independent and impartial judiciary is entrenched as a fundamental right in section 10(9) of the constitution and that where a public functionary, including the President, exercises such power, irrespective of whether one calls as an executive power or a prerogative, it is reviewable.
He further stated that the President’s reasons for rejecting candidates are likely to have a chilling effect on potential candidates to the extent that it suggests that the President maintains a system of surveillance to gather embarrassing information about citizens of a certain socio-political orientation, which is used to block their judicial appointment.
Khama had stated in the court papers that some of the considerations he takes when appointing judges include matters of national security, the socio-political situation in Botswana, public perceptions of the relevant candidate and the judiciary and questions of policy.
“The applicants submit that the President cannot on the advice of Cabinet and “his own advisors” when the Constitution itself provides that he rely on the JSC advice and no other. The President is not bound to solicit the advice of any other person. In this case his decision falls to be reviewed and set aside because he took into account irrelevant considerations,” Moipolai pointed out.
Nonetheless, the JSC has filed papers in support of the President’s decision and maintains that it decisions are confidential.
The JSC is a body that approve judges from appointment subject to a formal tradition of appointment by the Presi8dent. The role of the JSC in the appointment process is so vital that without the JSC processes, advice and recommendation, the President will not be able to consider and appoint any candidate.
Thus the only criteria for appointment is that followed by the JSC and appointment can only be made according to the advice of the JSC not any other advice, but the President maintains he has the right to refuse a name and cause the JSC to recommend another name for appointment as it happened in the Motumise case.
The JSC however had argued that the current practices and procedures of the JSC and the President have served the country well. However the LSB is adamant on its opposition of this assertion and submitted before court that the JSC has not substantiated its claim that the current appointment practices have served the country well as there is no empirical evidence to support the assertion.
“JSC was set up to protect and promote the judicial independence of judges whose appointment and discipline might otherwise be subjected to political manipulation. The complete secrecy in relation to the appointment processes of the JSC is unreasonable and unjustified and not in line with the processes of other jurisdictions such as Kenya, South Africa, the United States and more recently Zimabwe which held its first public interviews for candidates for judicial appointment in 2014,” Moipolai added.
Moipolai however maintains that it is not LSB’s intention to prescribe any particular procedure for the JSC, but that they strongly feel that the current practice of the JSC does not accord with the principles of transparency and openness that is required and that can be justifiable in a democratic country.
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.