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Lawyers demand changes at Court of Appeal

There are fresh calls on Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo to amend the Court of Appeal rules so as to align them to those of the High Court. Lawyers believe this will be a final act to curb suspected forum shopping for that perceived “right ruling”.

The pressure is projected specifically by the Law Society of Botswana, which is concerned that Judge President, Ian Kirby is solely responsible for allocating cases to other judges unlike at the High Court where cases are automatically allocated to the next available judge through the central Case Management System.

In fact the Law Society chairperson, Lawrence Lecha has publicly challenged Dibotelo to change the rules of the Court of Appeal if he is to do away with the alleged forum shopping.

“Given the importance of perception and central role of the court of Appeal, the society’s position as stated at this forum last year, is that the practice that obtains in the High Court should apply to the Court of Appeal,” Lecha remarked during the official opening of this year’s legal year in Gaborone.

Last year the Chief Justice expressed displeasure at the worrying practice of forum shopping that was apparently being applied in the High Court and vowed to amend the law to reduce  if not eliminate altogether such incidents.

The unpopular remark by Dibotelo led to animosity within the Judiciary but however led to serious engagement on the matter. As part of that discussion allocation of cases at the High court through automated system, case Management System, was promoted as a primary tool that was introduced to avoid forum shopping.

In order to achieve that, Dibotelo amended the rules of the High court to make withdrawal of cases more difficult once allocated to the judge.

He particularly changed the rules through Statutory Instrument number twenty-two of 2014 to provide in particular that a Party cannot register a cause of action at more than one High Court Registry and that a cause once registered may not be withdrawn without leave of the judge to whom it has been allocated.

Although Dibotelo is hopeful that the amendment would go a long way in eliminating the “shameful and dishonourable practice”, the law society is of the view that he had applied double standards as he failed to do the same for the Court of appeal.

“With all those measures having been put in place in a bid to do away with forum shopping, it is of concern that the Court of Appeal allocation of cases is not automated. Quite to the contrary, the rules of the court of Appeal unequivocally provide that the judge President of the Court of Appeal is single-handedly tasked with allocating matters to the Justices of Appeal,” Lecha added.

Lecha made the remarks four days before the Court of Appeal issues judgements for its January session. Among the pending judgments were cases that bother on the country’s constitution including powers of the country’s President who personally appoints the Judge President.

 “Perceptions are that judges do favour certain people and if rules are to be amended, there would be no justification for such perceptions,” Lecha stated in a brief interview on the sidelines.

The other concern raised by Lecha is that unlike the appoint of the High Court Judges and Magistrates, the appointment of the Court of Appeal Judges is not advertised and is shrouded in such secrecy that even the society which is represented at the Judicial Service Commission is sometimes faced with considering a candidate without the background of how the application came about.

“Whilst the Society commends the JSC for the improvements in the Approach, it can be hijacked by anyone at anytime for personal benefit. This lack of certainty and other outstanding matters as raised in the society’s position paper continue to be addressed with the JSC,” Lecha explained further.

Such an approach according to Lecha impacts negatively on perceptions of the independence of the court and the image of the country’s judicial system.

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Botswana approves extradition of British fugitive

20th March 2023

Raiz Ahmed Tayub, a British fugitive sought by Interpol for his involvement in human trafficking and slave trade crimes, was captured by the Botswana Police Service (BPS) earlier this year.

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BOCRA detects new cyber attacks targeted at Botswana

20th March 2023

Government owned communications regulator, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) recently detected several cyber-attacks targeted at national information and communications infrastructure, companies and home routers in this country.

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Malawi appeals for help over Cyclone Freddy at PAP

17th March 2023

As of yesterday evening, the death toll from the Cyclone in Malawi had risen from the initially reported 190 to 225 in a short period of time, over 20 000 people have been displaced, and the worst of fears are yet to come as the fatalities continue to mount. This was reported by a Malawi Member of Parliament attending the Pan African Parliament session in Midrand, South Africa, Hon Steven Mikiya.

Mikiya was giving a statement on behalf of Malawi as the ongoing Pan African Parliament in South Africa.

Mikiya said the Cyclone has wreaked the most havoc in our country’s Southern Region. “The Southern Region, has been hardest hit with widespread heavy rains and strong winds. This caused a rapid rise in water levels and subsequent flooding. Meanwhile, power supply has been disrupted, roads blocked off and rendered impassable and mudslides have also been widely reported,” he said.

He made a special appeal to the PAP:  “Where I come from, there is a parable which I would like to share with you which says, “mzako weniweni umamudziwa panthawi ya mavuto.” Simply put, a friend in need is a friend indeed or put loosely, a person who helps at a difficult time is a friend you can rely on.”

Mikiya continued: “Yes! Misfortune has knocked on our door and left in its wake a trail of death and destruction that may take years to fully recover from. However, amidst these difficulties, I have every reason to believe that sometimes when you are in a dark place and think you have been buried, you have actually been planted. My belief, Mr. President, arises out of my faith in this gathering and out of the conviction that it is not coincidental that Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi and Mozambique while the delegations of both countries are here.”

According to Mikiya, the level of destruction, the loss of life, property and the decimation of the entire fabric of established communities has been unprecedented. He noted that all this, is coming at a time when Malawi was starting to show signs of recovery from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that also came hard on the heels of Cyclone Ana and Cyclone Gombe that left a similar trail of devastation and destruction in Malawi and neighbouring countries.

As of Sunday, this week, from the 12th of March, Malawi and Mozambique have been facing the devastating effects of Cyclone Freddy that made a landfall over Mozambique on Saturday the 11th and reached Malawi by Sunday the 12th of March.

The Malawi legislator said he has absolute faith in the Pan African Parliament, which he described as “a league of nations brought together by a shared ancestry, history, identity as well as our beloved continent which we inhabit”.

Meanwhile, Malawi President, Lazarus Chakwera, has declared a State of Disaster in the affected areas effectively appealing for local and international support for the affected families.

Mikiya appealed to the Pan African Parliament drawing “positive” inspiration from Europe which rallied around Turkey after the destructive earthquakes to bring the much-needed relief and humanitarian aid to the people of Turkey.

He said Africa should demonstrate to the world that the African Union and its Organs are not mere talk shows, but effective institutions which stand up when it matters most.

“Alone, it may take us a lifetime to fully recover, but together, in the Pan-Africanist spirit of Ubuntu, our lives and livelihoods will return to a semblance of normality in record time. This is the time to live by our operative mantra, “One Africa, One Voice.” Mikiya concluded.

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