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.
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.