Despite Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo’s emphasis on the “seriousness” of the matter in which four Judges are said to have received a sum of P800 000 housing allowance they were not entitled to, the case has not reached the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) offices yet.
In an interview with The Botswana Gazette, DCEC Spokesperson Nyaladzi Gambule confirmed that they were not handling the case as it has not been reported to them but the Botswana Police Service.
“The case was not reported to us, as far as I know. We are not investigating it, the police are the ones following the case,” said Gambule on Monday.
In his letter to the four judges; Justices Key Dingake, Seabelo Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Ranier Busang, Chief Justice Dibotelo explained to the quartet that the matter is “serious” and “resolved to have it referred to the police for further investigations.” The judges have a case against them for having been receiving housing allowance they were not entitled to, whilst in occupation of Government provided accommodation. Whether it is a matter of corruption or common accounting error by the accountant who accredited the judges with the money it is still investigated by the police. The Registrar of the High Court, Michael Motlhabi was not available to comment on whether the accountant was being investigated along with the Judges.
The four judges, who are being investigated for the housing allowance payments, recently wrote to Justice Dibotelo alerting him of their concern over his reporting an “internal” matter which could have been solved amicably to the police. This did not go well with the Chief Justice as he said he was defamed. However, President Ian Khama did not like the judges conduct and used his executive powers to suspend them pending a tribunal that will investigate them for misconduct and their fitness to hold judicial office.
A tribunal of three judges has been appointed and commenced their investigations on the 1st of September, and the four suspended judges have expressed misgivings about the three judge tribunal. According to the four judges, the trio could be conflicted as they have relations with them as judges, Dibotelo as Chief Justice and the President, so they want them to be recused from the tribunal. The tribunal consists of; Justice Craig Howie who is the President of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal, currently a member of the Botswana Court of Appeal. The other panelist is Justice John Foxcroft, a former judge of the Cape Supreme Court and a member of the Botswana Court of Appeal too. The other judge on the tribunal is Judge Issac Lesetedi, who was formerly with the High Court before going to the Court of Appeal.
In its letter of 10 September, the Attorney General said in the case of this nature, “the decision of the court will have far reaching consequences in guiding all the stakeholders and generations to come in handling similar issues. It is for the above reasons that we verily believe that a broader spectrum of judicial wisdom is an appropriate case for the empaneling of the three judges.”
Last week the Attorney General, Dr Athaliah Molokomme went on to empanel the three judges going against the four judges wishes of having the judges removed and replaced by foreign judges.
Meanwhile the DCEC Spokesperson, Gambule told this publication that they are concerned that a Corruption Judge, Justice Bengbame Sechele is among twelve judges who signed a petition against the Chief Justice. Sechele is one of the judges who signed a petition to meet up with Justice Dibotelo and the Judicial Service Commission to announce plans to have him impeached. The judges believe the Chief Justice is hell-bent on destroying some judges careers and is witch-hunting those who wish to succeed him. They say that is why he reported them to the police, something which Justice Dibotelo believes is defamatory. Sechele is one of the 12 judges who signed the 17 August 2015 petition and she could face expulsion for such hence Gambule’s worry.