Legal talk with Diba Diba
Late last year the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) hosted its elective congress and taking the baton from his predecessor Kgalalelo Monthe was 44-year-old Diba Mathews Diba.
The prolific, Maitengwe-born lawyer is also a partner at Thabiso Tafila Attorneys.
Last week he delivered his maiden speech as the society head to mark the opening of the legal year.
In an interview with The Voice Staffer, Sharon Mathala, Diba opens up about his life and as well as being elected chair of the law society.
Briefly take us through your journey in the law fraternity.
Upon finishing my formal education I went and studied for my LLB at the University of Botswana and graduated in 2000.
I then joined the private practice for 10 years before joining Standard Chartered bank as their legal advisor.
I briefly left law for about two years and was involved in corporate banking before I came back to join Thabiso Tafila Attorneys as a partner which is where I am today.
Why did you opt for private practice?
I think I have always wanted to be a defence attorney. Going through school I always had that mentality.
I don’t think I made a conscious decision to go into private practice, it seemed like a natural progression – I never ever thought about working for government!
You were recently the talk of the town when you represented former Spy Chief, Isaac Kgosi during his widely publicised arrest. How did you handle the pressure of such a high profile incident?
At the end of the day it is about the client and what is in their best interest.
One has to remain professional at all times and what you and I think at that time should not matter.
In law we believe you should represent the client to the best of your ability – in fact to the same extent they would represent themselves if they were learned in the law!
There is talk of you being under some sort of radar because of your representation of Kgosi?
I have not detected any, and I don’t expect any. Frankly speaking, I am just doing my job.
But one or two people have hinted that I may be under some sort of surveillance. However, I don’t want to believe that; I am not too worried about that.
I am not doing anything criminal so…..
There is a public outcry at the mushrooming of ‘illegal’ lawyers. What is the LSB doing to protect Batswana and what red flags should the public be conscious of?
We are aware of this. Some call themselves consultants, some call themselves paralegals – they deceive the public and this is a criminal offence!
The first red flag should be the pricing – if their prices are extremely lower than what one would expect to be charged at the more established lawfirms!
But the simplest, most efficient way is to check with the law society if the person is registered.
What are some of the challenges the LSB faces?
The LSB does not necessarily have resources in abundance.
It is a challenge that has faced the law society since its inception.
I remember there was a time we tried to convince government to give us a subvention, but if we went ahead with that there was risk of losing our independence.
We have since resorted to other means of financing the society but it is still not enough.
As the newly elected chairman of the law society, what are some of your priority areas?
This is a hard one! Well my team and I will be focusing on three main areas.
Firstly, it would be regulation, in this regards amendment of the Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) – we believe that this is key.
We will also focus on training. We will also turn our attention to public interest matters especially rule of law, human rights and law reforms as well as obviously the development of the profession.
Many feel it is high time the Constitution of Botswana was reviewed. Are you in support of this?
The constitution was adopted a long time ago when Botswana got her Independence.
There have been amendments along the way but there is need for more and it is time we have a review of the constitution.
So far it has served us quite well, maybe not perfectly, but there are things I feel need to be looked into.
Things such as?
Well, when you look at the executive powers of the President, I have issues with those.
We have had leaders in the past who have, out of their good nature, not taken advantage of the law.
But we need to look into it so there is no room for abuse.
I also feel we should have political funding, just to mention a few.
What is your stance in regards to the death penalty?
I know a lot of Batswana support the death penalty.
However, I don’t think it serves its purpose! The argument is that it acts as a deterrent, but it’s not working.
You heard the CJ (Chief Justice) during his speech that it does not seem to deter.
The death penalty is final, it’s irreversible – yet you know our judicial system is not perfect.
We have incidents where people are wrongly sentenced but what happens when it’s the death penalty?
Talking of the Chief Justice, there is a feeling that his role overlaps with that of the Court of Appeal President. What is your view?
Administratively the Chief Justice is superior but Judicially the Court of Appeal President is senior.
The CJ can make a decision which may be overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Of course it is neater to have one person, but the CJ did mention that they are amending the law so that the CJ sits at the highest court.
There is a concern that lawyers misuse trust accounts. As the LSB chair, is this something you are looking into?
We require every trust account to be audited specifically to detect if there has been misuse.
Every three months we expect an attorney to submit the trust account bank statement.
We do all this so that we assure ourselves that no attorney uses money that is not his or hers.
Do you sympathise with any political party? Are you politically affiliated to any party?
The LSB has no party political affiliation. It supports any entity that believes in the the rule of law.
The rule of law includes anti corruption amongst others.
How do you intend to use your office and position to positively influence and ensure that Botswana will once again uphold free and fair elections?
By obviously calling on all to respect the electoral laws and calling out any breach thereof and providing any support which may be required and is within our capacity.
Besides being in the courtroom what else keeps you busy?
I am into fitness. I wake-up early in the morning and go jogging, in the evening I go to gym. I am also a fan of the outdoors.
If there was one perception you would change about your profession what would it be?
There is this perception people have that lawyers are liars, that when they appear in court they lie to get their clients free!
What are you reading at the moment?
I never read one thing at once, so right now I am reading ‘Be Merry like Christmas’ by Maya Angelou as well as ‘Speeches that Changed the World’.
TGIF, what will you be up to this Friday?
Friday is the only day in the week I come home early, so I will spend it with my girls.