• Former Attorney General and Minister sought to be appointed judge
• Skelemani confirms that Dibotelo ignored his bid to assist the judiciary
• Dibotelo says he is not willing to speak on the issue
• Says he doesn’t see any value added by the PSP in the Judicial Service Commission
The former Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo rejected former Minister and Attorney General, Phandu Skelemani’s bid to be appointed to the bench at a time when the judiciary was marred in controversy following the suspension of four judges.
Skelemani met the then chief Justice, Dibotelo following several appeals to him by some high-ranking government officials to consider joining the judiciary to assist temporarily or permanently.
Skelemani confirmed meeting Dibotelo, “it is true that I met the then Chief Justice-Dibotelo in a bid to assist the judiciary through my services and secondly with backlog of cases then,” he confirmed. Skelemani said he was compelled by nothing more but to assist his country following numerous appeals to him by people he declined to name and “of course some members of the public.” The former Attorney General revealed in an interview with this publication that “I told the Chief Justice that I am available on call, shared with him my credentials to assess with his Judicial Service Commission and make a determination on whether they can engage me or not.”
Skelemani earned his law degree from the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland and worked in the civil service for 30 years beginning when he became a Senior State Counsel in 1975, Principal State Counsel in 1978, and Attorney-General in 1992 before moving to politics.
According to Skelemani he allayed Dibotelo’s concerns over his involvement in politics by showing the Chief Justice that he had not been involved in active politics since his departure from the political arena in 2014 and had declined calls to assist in campaigns or participate in any party structures, as he believes he is done with politics.
“I have proved my rectitude as a prosecutor and attorney general and prosecuted my own daughter and uncle who I visited the following day now under the family hat. My uncle was sentenced for murder.”
When asked about his meeting with Skelemani, Dibotelo said he was not willing to discuss the matter, “I will not speak about that matter. As you may be aware I have retired,” he said before abruptly closing the discussion.
Skelemani revealed that since his meeting with Dibotelo he did not receive a response and said he did not have a problem with it. A lawyer by profession, Skelemani says he has been reluctant to open a law-firm and will not do so any time soon.
Asked about his views on Dibotelo’s handling of the four judges case, he said “I have been taught from day one as a lawyer that you do not make judgement over a matter whose facts and circumstances you do not know.”
He continued: “However it was out in the open that the chief justice had opened the judiciary to public mockery over a matter he should have handled meticulously and prudently. I mean who reports his judges to police?”
On the PSP being a member of the Judicial Service Commission, the former Attorney General said the truth of the matter is that the Permanent Secretary to the President does not add any value to the Commission, “I do not have a problem with it if it is provided for but the question is what value does he add? I personally don’t find any. He is just an elephant in the room,” he said.
He speaks highly of former president Festus Mogae and says “Festus was a true democrat. You will argue fiercely with him and even decline his preferences and he will appoint you a Minister of Presidential Affairs the following week because he did not personalise public office.” According to him this was because “he was groomed by the civil service as he rose through the ranks to the presidency.”
On his stay at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his attacks on foreign head of states, he says, “I don’t take nonsense. If you are wrong, you are wrong, and we must say it if we have satisfied ourselves that you are wrong. That’s where myself and former President Ian Khama clicked.”
He urges oversight institutions to have a backbone and take unpopular decisions where necessary and not fear anybody. “We have good laws in Botswana, but the problem is the human element. Departmental leaders must be brave and highly principled to maintain public trust in their institutions,” he says.
On Khama and Masisi fallout: “We don’t know what is going on there but I think he must know that Masisi is the president now and deal with it. The sooner the better. On Isaac Kgosi I think he is right, he deserves to know why not Kgosi. If it is a national security issue, Masisi must come out and tell him that he cannot divulge the reasons because it is a national security issue. You don’t compromise on security issues. But why does Khama badly want a person who the president doesn’t want in his public service?” Skelemani asked rhetorically. He concludes by saying he is now preparing to go into farming and survives on his investments and pension.