'Angry' judge defies Khama

GABORONE - Botswana's Court of Appeal (CoA) Judge president Ian Kirby is furious that President Ian Khama appears to be wrongly advised in his refusal to appoint veteran attorney Omphemetse Motumise as a judge.

According to sources close to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Kirby expressed his opinion during a heated meeting on May 11, 2017.

“The JSC had a heated meeting with Kirby angry that His Excellency (HE) the President Ian Khama appears to be wrongly advised because the Court of Appeal has spoken. Kirby said Khama must just appoint Motumise,” said one source.

It has been reported, rightly or wrongly, that Khama and Kirby are very close family friends. Another source said Khama is reluctant to appoint Motumise.

“The acting Attorney General Morulaganyi Chamme apparently said HE is reluctant to appoint Motumise. Other JSC members asked for such a position in writing but Chamme had none. Hence Kirby became furious.”

Recently, the CoA ruled that Khama was not entitled to turn down the recommendation of the JSC when he refused the appointment of Motumise in 2015. The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) and Motumise had appealed the matter after a panel of Justices Singh Walia, Abednego Tafa and Phadi Solomon dismissed the application last year.

The respondents in this case were Khama, the JSC and the Attorney General (AG). The JSC comprised Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, Kirby and the AG who at the time was Athaliah Molokomme amongst others.

It is also alleged that the JSC also recommended the appointment of acting Judge, Zein Kebonang to replace former Judge Kholisani Solo. In January this year, Khama finally retired Solo on grounds of ill-health.  It was reported towards the end of 2016 that Khama had forced Solo to go on an early retirement based on medical grounds.

Acting in terms of Section 97 of the Constitution, Khama removed Solo based at the Francistown division of the High Court from office of the judge of the High Court “on account of ill-health with effect from 11th January 2017”.

Kebonang was recommended in 2015 for appointment by the JSC after Khama refused the appointment of Motumise.

Motumise’s lawyer Tshiamo Rantao has disclosed that they have since communicated to the President last week.

“We asked him to appoint Motumise because the Court of Appeal has spoken. We are awaiting his response. We are confident that he will appoint him. We have communicated the position of our expectation and we expect him to act accordingly,” Rantao said.

Efforts to reach Registrar and Master of the High Court, Michael Motlhabi were futile at the time of going to press.  Motlhabi also serves as the JSC secretary. In the past he said the proceedings of the JSC are confidential and any appointment will be made public at the appropriate time.

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