Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo has expressed his deep-seated frustration and anger at the government’s treatment of the judiciary warning that should that attitude persist, the independence of the judiciary may be affected.
Dibotelo made the scathing attack at the Palapye Judicial Conference this weekend where he portrayed the Administration of Justice as a department in crises due to the government’s scanty budget for the judiciary.
“The major challenge we face, in my view, is the under resourcing of the judiciary. I have pronounced publicly my deep-seated conviction to devote what remains of my tenure as Chief Justice to advocating and ensuring that the funding of the Judiciary especially and its stakeholders takes centre stage. Whilst we appreciate the support the government has extended to the Judiciary to ameliorate the situation, much more still needs to be done,” he said, further adding that equipment such as tents, boots and special clothing for those who man the special stock theft courts needed to be purchased and funds are urgently required to meet those needs.
Dibotelo also took the opportunity to take a swipe at the authorities for exploiting the judges’ patience by making them drive unworthy and old vehicles. Some judges have been driving the vehicles (Volvos) for over 10 years and feel they need to be replaced.
Setting out issues that are urgently required, the seemingly frustrated Dibotelo said “the same applies to the replacement of old vehicles for Judges”. He continued that “the shortage of registry clerks both at the Magistrates Courts and High Court is adversely affecting our performance at both levels. This state of affairs has impacted negatively on our reforms of CRMS and JCM.”
He said their efforts to provide justice to the nation is crippled by lack of human and financial resources, making the remarks in particularly reference to their unsuccessful efforts to roll out the Small Claims Court to other areas around the country.
“In some places such as Kang, Ghanzi, Nata, Bobonong, and Serowe, Magistrates have to share one courtroom and this has impacted negatively on the performance of the courts. The time has come to unfreeze the projects for the construction of Magistrates Courts in places like Ghanzi and Serowe. Funds must be made available by the government to build court facilities in these and other areas,” he charged, further adding that even their best plans are being crippled by the lack of resources. “The truth is that even with our greatest efforts at re-engineering our processes and the incremental use of technology, the shortage of human and financial resources continues to cripple our best plans,” he said.
He reminded the government and stakeholders that two years ago at the Mahalapye Conference under the theme “A well-resourced Judiciary is fundamental to the expeditious delivery of quality justice,” it was noted that the independence of the Judiciary is affected when it is not well funded.
“That conference identified the need to urgently convene the conference on the resourcing of the Judiciary and its key stakeholders, and went on to adopt resolution that a Stakeholders Conference be convened by the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security to deal specifically with issues of resources for the Judiciary and its key stakeholders.”
Expressing his appreciation to the minister over some issues, he also used the platform as a launching pad to call the government to unfreeze construction of Magistrates Courts in places like Ghanzi and Serowe. “Funds must be made available by the government to build court facilities in these and other areas.”
He said in the past, the Stakeholders Conference recognised that the budget allocation to the Judiciary was inadequate which in turn hampered the judiciary´s financial and institutional independence. The conference, therefore, resolved that the government should amend the necessary legislative frame work to ensure that a specified percentage of the national budget was allocated to the judiciary.
The conference further resolved that the key stakeholders to the judiciary must be adequately resourced to enhance effective justice delivery.
“We look forward to the government acceptance of the modest request that a specified percentage of the national budget be allocated to the Judiciary,” he stated.
On the issue of human resources, the past stakeholders conference resolved that there should be an increase in manpower in the entire justice system, including, inter alia, the urgent recognition of the Court of Appeal as a separate court with its own staff, and the speeding up the takeover of prosecutorial services by the DPP from the Police and DCEC.