Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has thrown its weight behind High Court judge, Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe’s legal bid for President Mokgweetsi Masisi to have Chief Justice, Terrence Rannowane removed from office.
In an application filed before Maun High Court on Friday, LSB wants the court to direct for a convening of a tribunal that will make an enquiry towards CJ’s actions and remove him from office.
“Since the 2nd respondent (Masisi) has injudiciously rejected to convene a tribunal and proceeded to abdicate his authority, the applicant (LSB) maintains that the 2nd respondent can be mandated to do so by this honourable court given the gravitas of the complaint in issues as well as the fact that the honourable court is in as good a position as the 2nd respondent to direct the convening of a Tribunal,” LSB noted in their application.
The application, according to LSB is prompted by inaction and abdication of statutory duty by Masisi’s failure to promptly deal with a complaint lodged by Ketlogetswe in August, against Rannowane in respect of a prima facie case of judicial interference.
In his complaints, Ketlogetswe indicated that Rannowane does not only misbehave, but interferes with justice and is that he is a tribalist.
Following his letter that was made public, LSB filed a similar complaint to Masisi to act, but he never did.
According to LSB, the inaction is tantamount to a decision rejecting to act per statutory duty.
The case relates to alleged interference of the CJ, in a case involving the arrest of Lobatse member of Parliament, Thapelo Matsheka, three montsh ago over allegation of the murder of 7-year-old school boy, Tlotso Karema.
Allegedly while Matsheka was in detention, CJ made a phone call to Justice Ketlogetswe who was presiding over the matter and indicated to the judge that the government legal representatives actions were lax and intended to embarrass Masisi.
CJ is said to have further proceeded to ask Ketlogetswe if he was going to release Matsheka to which the judge answered it was highly unlikely.
In another call between the two judges, on the same day August 6th, CJ is said to have asked the same question of which Ketlogetswe is said to have responded by saying the route of releasing the politician was inescapable.
The answer is said to have seemingly disappointed the CJ who is said to have mentioned that such a court decision would embarrass Masisi.
For a third time according to the court papers, during a call on 7th August Rannowane allegedly asked the judge again if he was going to release Matsheka and the judge maintained that there was no other decision to make than to release him and once again he CJ allegedly complained about how the decision will embarrass the first citizen.
Rannowane is said to have then went on to tell Presidential Affairs Minister, Kabo Morwaeng about the judge’s intention and the two are said to have worked together in trying to interfere with the Judge’s decision through questioning him about an unrelated issue of the Gaongalelwe commission which dealt with improved benefits of judges.
Morwaeng is said to have tried to invoke fear on the judge by indicating that that there was a threat to his safety and that of his family.
Further Morwaeng is said to have suggested to the judge that the said outcome would bring social unrest and vulnerability to state security.
Following the letter, the CJ is said to have responded to the judge and assassinated his character and in response the judge stated that Rannowane was using personal issues and political background in an attempt to unjustifiably attack his character.
Justice Ketlogetswe noted that the decision to request an enquiry to remove Rannowane from office was not only surrounding Matsheka’s case but rather that there is a previous instance where a matter involving former President Ian Khama was assigned to judge Christopher Gabanagae and the CJ allegedly explained to Ketlogetswe, (when he commented on the then controversial subject )that LSB was constituted by a “cabal of Bakalaka.”
Further he said the CJ insisted that he would not allow any Judge from North of Dibete village to handle cases involving former president Khama.
The CJ has since denied attempting to influence the decision on Matsheka’s case and indicated that Ketlogetswe’s complaint to Masisi was actually fabricated and built with deceit.
Justice Rannowane is said to have alleged that Ketlogetswe is “a deceitful, irresponsible and cantankerous judge who thrives in conflict and disharmony with a desire to constantly seek confrontation.”
The CJ is further quoted indicating that it was Ketlogetswe who actually contacted him and introduced the subject of Matsheka.
The CJ allegedly maintained that he was actually the one who was disappointed that a prominent politician could be held unlawfully and that the disappointment was based on the fact that law enforcement officers were quick to arrest , detain or charge people when their cases are not well investigated such that when the outcome of the cases is undesirable it appears as if the actions of the state were politically motivated and thus causing embarrassment to the president.
Nonetheless LSB maintains that the CJ’s conduct is tantamount to a prima facie case of misbehaviour and must be subjected to investigation in relation to removal from office as per the terms of section 97 (3) of the constitution.