Latest information suggest that President Lt Gen Ian Khama rejected the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and his trusted lawyer Parks Tafa’s recommendations to appoint Senior Attorney, Omphemetse Motumise to the vacant position of High Court judge because of suggestions in the JSC’s recommendation sheet which spelt out that the President should also consider the tribal imbalances that marred the judiciary as justification for the senior attorney’s appointment.
WeekendPost has established that the JSC had suggested that apart from Motumise being the most qualified for the job, it would also be very important for the President to appoint him to bridge the tribal imbalances in the judiciary.
Motumise, who was born 52 years ago in a village of Lokgwabe – a village of less than 3000 inhabitants, would have been the only judge to come from the Kgalagadi District out of 22 men and women appointwed to the High Court bench. Botswana has 22 judges – eight are based at the Gaborone High Court; seven are in Lobatse; while another seven serves the Francistown High Court.
Khama was unhappy with the tribal justifications and felt that the reference polluted the entire case and could as well be the main reason that fermented Motumise’s recommendation. His reservation was that the tribal reasoning confused him as to whether the JSC considered Motumise on Judicial tribal imbalances or merit. The President is alleged to have said while he didn’t have a problem with Motumise, he was concerned that the JSC recommendation seemed to hinge on the said tribal imbalance at the bench.
A high-ranking source told this publication that Motumise also has a few ancient squabbles with the current regime dating back to his days as a Commissioner of the Independant Electoral Commission (IEC) – an instituion charged with the constitutional mandate of managing, organising and holding free and fair elections in Botswana, which falls under the Office of the President.
Motumise was once deputy Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commision for ten years, often acting as Chairman of the Commission. The BDP, as it has come to be known, has often been accused of controlling the institution while the opposition ascribe the BDP’s dominance to its overly control over the EIC. Motumise is said to have occasionaly rejected a few of the leadership’s proposals.
Khama’s loyal and trusted lawyer, Parks Tafa had painted Motumise with bright colours citing him in his recommendation letter as a man who has ‘exhibited thoroughness, intellect, knowledge of the law, and superior analytical skills in his work.’
Tafa had further said Motumise’s humility and unassuming disposition has earned him wide respect within the legal fraternity. “I believe Motumise is a worthy candidate who would add value to our Administration of justice.”
However even Tafa’s trusted words and counsel could not convince the President who many wondered what he may be up to. Khama reportedly met the JSC twice as an effort to iron out differences following his refusal to endorse Motumise.
The President’s stance angered the legal fraternity and provoked threats of a law suit from the Law Society of Botswana. The office of the President’s Press Secretary, Gobe Pitso did not respond to Weekendpost questions over the issue, neither did the JSC.
The LSB posits that the refusal by the President to appoint Motumise as a judge contravened section 96 (6) of the constitution which makes it mandatory for the President to appoint a judge in accordance with the advice of the JSC. They say the President has no discretion and therefore must appoint in accordance with such an advice.
Following this legal wrangle, Khama appointed the identical twin brother of Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Sadique Kebonang – Zein Kebonang as acting judge. LSB has promised to challenge the acting appointment at the high court saying it is or was unconstitutional. The Law Society is yet to file papers.
The cost of acting judge-Zein Kebonang
Legal eagles say Kebonang’s appointment will leave the judiciary with dillemas after the elapse of his acting term.
One of Gaborone’s prominent lawyers, Kgosiitsile Ngakaagage in an interview with this publication opined that Judges’ positions are constitutionally entrenched and a fixed term appointment or acting appointment runs in tandem with the spirit of the constitution.
“The entrenchment is intended to bolster the Judge's conscious fortitude given the sensitivity of the attendant mandate. A Judge who does not have constitutional protection on account of an acting appointment lacks that advantage constitutionally deemed to be indispensable to the proper discharge of the constitutional mandate,” he said.
Further, Ngakaagage said an acting appointment to a judicial vacancy that may as well be substantively filled, may well, rightly or wrongly, be interpreted to be probationary in nature. That, he said, does not help to bolster confidence in the administration of justice.
Ngakaagae went further to say an active appointment, may however be unavoidable, and perhaps justifiable, in addressing with backlog issues, since the appointees do not assume their mandates with the hope or expectation of being appointed to an existing substantive post.
“Conversely, the long turnaround times pervade the judicial resolution of cases may result in the creation or more backlog and inevitable renewals of acting appointments especially in criminal cases where cases aren't transferrable,” he said.
According to Ngakaagae, it makes no sense to appoint a qualified man to a vacant post on an acting basis when you can as well appoint them on a permanent basis. “You cannot claim to be looking for greater merit than that which commended him to the basis. Whilst the appointee may be sufficient qualified, and fit and proper for the post, the irrationality, in the absence of a cognizable explanation, may unduly cast doubt on the bona fides of the appointment,” charged Ngakaage who is one of the finest legal brains locally.
The P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga that has been before court since 2017 seems to be losing its momentum with a high possibility of it being thrown out as defence lawyers unmask incompetency on the part of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP).
The Gaborone High Court this week ruled that the decision by the State to prosecute Justice Zein Kebonang and his twin brother, Sadique Kebonang has been reviewed and set aside. The two brothers have now been cleared of the charges that where laid against them three years ago.
The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.
Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.
US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.
Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.
“The founders of our Republic de-centralised authority significantly in creating our constitutional system, which means that they gave an enormous amount of independent power and authority to State and local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.
Unlike parliamentary democracies, like Botswana the United States does not have all of the national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where the entire federal government is elected all in one election cycle giving a “mandate” to a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.
The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators serve for six years and one third of the Senate is elected every two years.
For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice
President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.
An important facet of US electoral system to understand given the federalism nature of the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.
“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State is assigned a number of electors to our Electoral College and the candidate who wins the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.
“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”
Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to win a State by one vote to win a 100 percent of its electors, the margin does not matter.
“Donald Trump won many more States by smaller margins, hence he got an Electoral College majority.”
Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.
“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going to break with the popular vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.
“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”
There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.
If however there are more candidates, and this happens extremely rarely, and a third candidate got some electors to the Electoral College denying the two major party candidates, either one getting a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.
“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.
BLUE STATES vs RED STATES
Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.
Many states have populations that are so heavily concentrated in the Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.
California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.
However there are swing states, where there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.
“So it ends up making a national contest for the presidency actually look like several state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.
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.