Member of the Public Accounts Committee(PAC), Mephato Reatile, says Debswana Diamond Company could be receiving preferential treatment from the Industrial Court as its labour disputes seem to never see the light of day.
Reatile asked, Monday, at the PAC why Debswana cases allegedly take too long to be litigated or to reach the Industrial court. Acting Registrar of the Industrial Court Segomotso Mothotho however said she was not aware of the development, prompting PAC to ask for a re-submission on the matter this Thursday. Information passed to this publication is that there are cases which have been referred to the Industrial Court for over three years but have never been litigated.
Mothotho defended her department saying, contrary to the historical criticism about the backlog of cases at the Industrial Court, backlog actually only stands at 12.95% which is “reasonable since we should acknowledge that backlog can never be at zero.” She also said judges have a reasonably manageable workload but they are being put on the back foot by using manual recording instead of electronic system.
Mothotho explained that the Industrial Court has 9 judges; 7 in Gaborone and 2 in Francistown. She explained that there was one vacant position which was filled recently. However, Selibe Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse was worried that the Industrial Court is concentrated with “presidential appointments,” questioning its independence. According to Mothotho, Industrial Court appointments are made by the president following the advice of the Judge President Ian Kirby.
Keorapetse advised the Acting Registrar to consider using a body like the Judiciary Service Commission(JSC) as an appointing authority instead of the president.
He explained that the Industrial Court is used as a court of equity according to the Act that established it and that it becomes a problem when litigants appeal their labour cases to the Court of Appeal (CoA), as a result that equity will be lost because the supreme court only deals with law. The Selibe Phikwe legislator suggested that there be a separate labour court of appeal or Industrial Court of Appeal.