Former High Court Judge Professor Kholisani Solo has slammed Legal Aid Botswana citing its limitations in assisting underprivileged Batswana. Solo who is also a scholar at the University of Botswana (UB) noted in a paper titled “Social Assistance and Legal Aid in Botswana” that “Although the role of the Legal Aid Botswana is significant and extensive in coverage, it has a limitation in that it does not generally cover criminal matters.”
He said in Botswana, the major players in the provision of legal aid are the Legal Aid Botswana and the University of Botswana Legal Clinic. “Whilst the Legal Aid Botswana provides assistance to poor litigants to a significant extent, it is not enough. It only provides assistance in civil cases and in very limited situations in criminal cases,’ he said. According to Solo, “Legal Aid Botswana is grappling with the issue of how to expand its provision of services to criminal matters and the Government of Botswana is still to accede to that request.”
Solo noted that Legal Aid Botswana provides legal services such as advice, legal representation in the magistrates court, High Court, Industrial Court, Land Tribunal and the Court of Appeal of Botswana. “It also conducts public legal education on legal rights and responsibilities. It offers these services through its salaried legal practitioners employed by Legal Aid board and by private lawyers through the Law Society of Botswana,” he said. Solo said Botswana Citizens who cannot afford a lawyer but have a reasonable chance of winning their case are covered.
“They have however to undergo a means rest. Salaries or wages, commissions, bonuses, rentals, investments, allowances, subsidies, maintenance and grants received are considered when one undergoes the means test,” Solo said citing a Legal Aid Botswana leaflet of 2015. He noted that customary court and small claims court representation is not allowed. Preliminary Industrial mediation is not covered adding that Maintenance claims except where the other party is legally represented are not covered.
He said Legal Aid Botswana does not cover assistance in criminal matters except for persons under the age of 18 years. “This is a serious shortcoming in the matters of access to justice. Justice should be accessible to all irrespective of whether the matter is civil or criminal. Legal Aid Botswana would do well if it covered labour matters from inception to conclusion,” said Solo.
He added that, “There is no reason why pre industrial mediation is not covered if other labour issues are covered. Proposals are at an advanced stage for Legal Aid to cover individuals with criminal matters before the courts,” he said. He said it is not known whether government will accede to that request. Turning to the University of Botswana Legal Clinic, he said it provides assistance to indigent members of the society but its contribution is only marginal. “It has resource constraints and was mainly designed to equip students with lawyering skills. The pro bono system also does work in Botswana. Its efficacy depends on the willingness of lawyers generally to assist indigent persons in the society,” said Solo.
He said the positive public and political image notwithstanding, the role of the Legal Clinic in the provision of legal aid services should not be exaggerated. Solo explained that it was set up primarily as a teaching tool, for the attainment of specific objectives of the law programme. He said it ministers mainly to indigent persons and social groups, partly so as not to be seen as competing with traditional providers of legal services.
“The way it is structured within an academic setting, and the support it receives from the university, although extremely valuable, would not justify the Legal Clinic being projected as a true legal aid scheme,” said Solo.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katholo has revealed why he took a decision to engage private lawyers against the State. The DCEC boss engaged Monthe and Marumo Attorneys in his application to interdict the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing files and dockets in the custody of the corruption busting agency.
In his affidavit, Katholo says that by virtue of my appointment as the Director General of the DCEC, he is obliged to defend the administration and operational activities of the DCEC. He added that, “I have however been advised about a provision in the State Proceedings Act which grants the authority of public institution to undertake legal proceedings to the Attorney General.” Katholo contends that the provision is not absolute and the High Court may in the exercise of its original jurisdiction permit such, like in this circumstance authorise such proceedings to be instituted by the DCEC or its Director General.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has gone through transformation over the years, with new faces coming and going, but some figures have become part and parcel of the furniture at Tsholetsa House. From founding in 1962, BDP has seen five leaders changing the baton during the party’s 60 years of existence. The party has successfully contested 12 general elections, albeit the outcome of the last polls were disputed in court.
While party splits were not synonymous with the BDP for the better part of its existence, the party suffered two splits in the last 12 years; the first in 2010 when a Barataphathi faction broke ranks to found the now defunct Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). The Barataphathi faction was in the main protesting the ill-treatment of then recently elected party secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi, who had been suspended ostensibly for challenging the authority of then president, Ian Khama.
Mr Abdoola has known Mr. Uzair Razi for many years from the time he was a young boy. Uzair’s father, Mr Razi Ahmed, was the head of BCCI Bank in Botswana and “a very good man,” his close associates say.
Uzair and his wife went to settle in Dubai, the latter’s birthplace. He stayed in touch and was working for a real estate company owned by Mr. Sameer Lakhani. “Our understanding is that Uzair approached Mr. Abdoola to utilize their services for any property-related interests in Dubai. He did some work for Mr.Abdoola and others in the Botswana business community,” narrates a friend of Mr Abdoola.