Khama captures the courts

Khama appoints his permanent secretary Carter Morupisi to the body that recommends appointment of Judges.

  • Retaliation of the Motumise case
  • PSP writes communiqués to JSC for the President
  • Executive is overly represented
  • A serious conflict of interest?
  • Lawyers worried


President Ian Khama has delivered a masterstroke and clenched full control of Botswana’s judicial system by appointing Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi to the Judicial Service Commission(JSC) last week.
Legal opinions making rounds suggest that Khama is retaliating his Court of Appeal (CoA) loss on the Moeletsi Motumise case where Judge Isaac Lesetedi ruled that President Khama was not at liberty to turn down the recommendation by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to appoint Motumise as judge.
The JSC plays a major role in the appointment of judges and decisions in the judiciary and its main purpose is to exert separation of powers between the president and the judges.
A former military man, Khama hates losing; to him being in power means to be in total control, a philosophy that his counterpart Jacob Zuma does not enjoy as South African courts continue to defy and call him to book every he errs. It is obvious that Khama wants the loophole that the JSC used to ascend Motumise to the High Court shut permanently and his permanent secretary Morupisi makes the best batsman.
Shocked members of the law society say that it is a conflict of interest and an assault on the separation of powers which compromises the independence of the judiciary, The Botswana Gazette has learnt.
Morupisis’s job description is to; perform any functions assigned to him by the president from time to time. As PSP to the president, he is the administrative head of the Office of the president and advisor to the president. He is the head of the civil service and also holds an executive position as a secretary of cabinet; legal experts argue that it is akin to Khama himself sitting in the JSC and then making recommendation to himself as president.
Also, one of the roles of the PSP is to write to newly appointed judges and recently Morupisi wrote to Motumise advising him of his rejection by President Khama. “How can your secretary be in a position to give you recommendations through powers of the JSC, it is conflicting, when is he PSP and not JSC when performing duties?” asked one lawyer.
Khama’s appointment of his office PSP to the JSC does not only compromise the independence of the judiciary, it makes the executive arm of government overly represented in the JSC.
The JSC comprises of the Chief Justice, Judge President of the Court of Appeal and Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Attorney General and now the Permanent Secretary to the President and all except the representative of the Law Society, are appointed by President Khama.  Morupisi is appointed as “a person of integrity and experience who is not a legal practitioner” as per the constitution.
Morupisi has started taking part in JSC meetings and resumed his duties last week Thursday and Friday, raising the eyebrows of “dazed” members of the commission chaired by Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo.
Law  Society of Botswana (LSB) Chairman Kgalalelo Monthe said Morupisi’s appointment is a very unfortunate thing to happen to for this country’s judiciary since he is the president’s advisor and the presidency or the executive cannot be part of independent bodies like the JSC.
“His appointment is an erosion of the independence of the JSC. It will affect the rule of law. His role will align with those of the president as he is the advisor of the appointer who will also rely on him for recommendation and advice. It will be like the president sitting on the JSC,” said Monthe.
The LSB said that it will issue a statement after getting a legal opinion on the matter.
In a brief interview with The Botswana Gazette Morupisi admitted that he was recently appointed a member of the JSC and was surprised that some members claimed not to know whether he is part of the commission “because it was announced in a meeting by the chairman,” he said.
“You can ask all the details from the Secretary of the JSC the Master and Registrar of the High Court…My appointment letters are with him…I am a member of JSC,” said Morupisi.
The Master and Registrar of the High Court Michael Motlhabi’s mobile phone could not be reached for comment before print time.