UDC stops Chief Justice in his tracks

Kabelo Dipholo
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Francistown High Court Judge, Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe has ruled in favour of the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in an interdiction application against the Chief Justice and the Acting Registrar of the High Court on Tuesday.

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UDC were successful in interdicting Terence Rannowane from empaneling a three-judge bench in their case against the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Ketlogetswe granted the applicants an interim interdict on Tuesday following a lengthy stop-start court session.

In his order, Justice Ketlogetswe forbade the Chief Justice and Deputy Registrar from appointing Justices Taboka Slave and Bengbame Sechele to preside over their case which was initially scheduled for Wednesday.

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The interdiction application by the UDC follows a communique from the Chief Justice on 10th November alerting them of his intention to empanel a three-judge bench including Ketlogetswe for their matter against the IEC.

Ketlogetswe had to prevail over State Attorney Busang Manewe who questioned the court’s jurisdiction to preside on the matter.

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Manewe argued that since the CJ had already appointed three judges to the panel for the UDC against IEC case, including for any other matters arising, Ketlogetswe had no jurisdiction to seat on the bench. “The court does not form a quorum. His Lordship is incompetent to preside over this matter as per the Chief Justice’s communication on 10th November,” said Manewe.

Ketlogetswe however reminded the state attorney that while the Chief Justice talked to him about his desire to bring two more judges to preside over the matter, he was officially told about the decision on Monday afternoon. “All the other communication you are referring to I was never a part of. It means I’m managing a case and things are happening around it without my knowledge,” said Ketlogetswe.

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“The issue of jurisdiction does not preclude the respondent from putting forward their issues, so I’m giving direction that we move forward with this matter,” Ketlogetswe told Manewe, who conceded that indeed the official empanelment communication to the judge was on short notice.

Manewe had earlier on questioned the rationale behind Justice Ketlogetswe’s decision to write to Registrar of the High Court stating that the matter scheduled for Wednesday may not proceed due to the interdiction matter on Tuesday.
“Do you think this was the most sensible thing to do,” asked Manewe.

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“Do you think it was insensible,” responded Justice Ketlogetswe, before explaining that he found it in order to notify the Registrar as the interdiction matter had a bearing on the substantive UDC/IEC matter set for Wednesday.

Defence lawyer Andile Tau was in agreement with Ketlogetswe, telling court that the matter of jurisdiction does not arise as at the time the Chief Justice thought of empaneling the two judges, the matter had already been allocated.
“That is why the applicant interdicted the Chief Justice because we believed the conduct he was about to take was unlawful,” argued Tau.

Tau said Ketlogetswe presided over the IEC/UDC matter, and that the integrity of court was never in question. “That’s why I’m saying let’s keep the status quo, because anything else will put the justice system into disrepute,” he said.

In his ruling Justice Ketlogetswe called upon the respondents to come to court on 22 November 2023 and show cause why the interdiction orders should not be made final.

He then postponed the UDC/IEC matter until the current case is finalised.

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