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Defending the downtrodden

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Defending the downtrodden
Martin Dingake

The lawyer with a love for solitude and family

Born to Montenyane and Tshenolo Dingake in the copper mining town of Selibi-Phikwe in the early eighties, Martin Mogakolodi Dingake has since grown to become a well known lawyer in the country.

Now running a successful lawfirm in the capital city, Gaborone, Dingake, a lawyer by training, profession and practice, explains his passion for law and love to defend human rights and justice in this interview with FRANCINAH BAAITSE -MMANA.

Q. When did you develop your love for law?

A. Law seems to have been a natural choice for me.

In large part, I think, on account of a conversation I had with my Standard 5 teacher in 1993.

I was an ardent reader of current affairs. My then teacher, Mr Koma, asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I had no answer.

He suggested politics or law. The latter stuck with me, somehow. Many years later, I reflect on that conversation and think perhaps that was the turning point!

Q. So your uncle, Key Dingake, being a judge was not a factor?

A. There are many who believe that my choice of law had to do with my uncle who was law lecturer and later judge.

That is further from the truth.

I think in my late secondary school days I found Duma Boko as an inspiration given his oratory and writing skills.

In the mid 90s Boko was an untamable towering intellectual whom you couldn’t resist.

I fell prey to his thinking and philosophy, and we were to meet later in life as pupil master.

Q. Interesting. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

A. I have been called to assist the vulnerable members of society, many with a cause (and they are plenty) but without resources or access to justice.

I have seen people virtually without hope being hopeful upon entering the corridors of the courts.

Giving that helping hand and receiving a smile back, knowing that tomorrow holds the key to someone and that they have the conviction and faith to march forward.

There is nothing as fulfilling as seeing someone happy and content at the end of a long grueling legal battle.

Q. Tell us about a case you are particularly proud of?

A. There are too many to recount here! So many, many of which were behind the scenes, in many instances consultancy work that I have done.

But I have been humbled by the prevailing sense of brotherhood and humanity when I handled refugee cases.

I have seen and heard their painful struggles, one which we take for granted.

No one would leave or want to leave a place they call home, leaving behind family.

We can do so much by just giving them space and comfort.

Q. In your opinion, how is the refugee issue best solved?

A. A refugee question is a never ending one.

Because of their vulnerability, generally they require more attention and patience.

They are not a problem but a responsibility!

And so we must lend a helping hand to them.

Lasting solutions will only come if we give them an ear and exhibit tolerance towards them.

They are humans after all, who, not out of their choice, have had to leave home.

The best solution is listening and meeting our responsibilities in terms of international law and in the case where Tripartite Agreements are in place, honour those.

Q. Many local attorneys seem to have a special interest in politics, especially opposition politics. You are known to be BCP, doesn’t this influence your work, clientele?

A. I don’t think people choose me because of the colour of my political thoughts but whether or not I can deliver in my work.

It would be regrettable if that is the choice people have to make.

I am yet to be told that because I hold particular political views, my work has been enhanced or is any less!

I am a lawyer first as a professional and that is where it begins and must end.

I have been approached across the political divide, and so too, I have assisted without regard to clients’ political views and or association.

Q. What can you say about Botswana’s state of democracy and governance?

A. Botswana as a nation has great potential.

Our main undoing has been comparing ourselves with our neighbours who have been notorious for the most horrendous transgressions.

We also seem to believe that if it’s not broken we shouldn’t fix it; that has set us back by many, many years!

I am happy that we are joining the African Peer Review Mechanism and hopefully we will allow ourselves to be critically evaluated and conform to standards the continent has set for us.

But we must set our standards over and above those of our peers.

For example, many UN bodies have asked us to improve in many instances and we are still lacking behind.

Q. What is your opinion about the country’s judicial independence?

A. The least said about the independence of our judiciary or its status the better!

I leave that question to historians and the course of time.

I am hoping we will honestly engage that question as a society.

Some of us have said a lot about it, perhaps far too early, and we have had a hostile reception to our views.

I can say that if ever we thought we were past the storm we are in for a rude awakening!

I am hoping those who speak to us only mutedly about our judiciary will come out in the open soon.

Q. Away from work, are you a family man?

A. I am married with two children, a boy and a girl.

Q. What makes you happy?

A. When I am at peace.

And when I am indoor and alone.

There are no moments in life greater than being alone.

I am also happy around my family.

Q. Thank God it’s Friday. What are you up to this weekend?

A. I am your typical teetotaler.

Any day of the weekend, I am most likely home with my family.