- “Morupisi appointment an assault on spirit of separation of powers”
- Morupisi confirms LSB’s intention to sue
- “I don’t determine who the president appoints to the JSC”-Morupisi
- Chief Justice-Dibotelo caught between two warring sides
Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Chairman Justice Maruping Dibotelo is facing another headache after the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) served him with papers expressing intent to challenge President Ian Khama’s controversial appointment of his own Permanent Secretary, Cater Morupisi, to the powerful judicial body.
LSB wants Morupisi to recuse himself from the JSC as it says his appointment is not only an assault on the spirit of separation of powers but raises questions of conflict of interest. Morupisi’s appointment in May provoked murmurs, one of which was fear that it was a move by Khama to finally “capture” the judiciary.
The JSC plays a major role in the appointment of judges and its main purpose is to exert the separation of powers between the president and judges. It comprises Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo as its Chairman, Court of Appeal President Ian Kirby, Cater Morupisi, Attorney General Abram Keetshabe, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and a member of the Law Society.
Speaking to The Botswana Gazette, Morupisi confirmed knowledge of LSB’s intention to sue. “I know that they have served the JSC. What I can say to you is that I do not determine who goes into the JSC and not. It is the president’s responsibility,” he said, avoidng to discuss the matter extensively.
Morupisi’s job description entails performing ‘any functions assigned to him by the president from time to time’. One of his roles is to write to newly appointed judges informing them of their appointment to the bench or rejection thereto. As Permanent Secretary to the President, he is the administrative head of the Office of the President (OP) and advisor to the president. He heads the civil service and holds an executive position as a secretary of cabinet. Some legal experts say Morupisi’s appointment to the JSC is intrusive in that it is akin to Khama sitting in the JSC in person and making recommendation to himself.
Highly placed sources within the Administration of Justice say the JSC is itself worried by Morupisi’s appointment and sees him as an intimidating double agent and the proverbial elephant in the room. Morupisi’s appointment to the commission was read by some legal analysts as ‘revenge’ by Khama following his loss in a matter in which the Court of Appeal found that he erred in turning down the JSC’s recommendation to appoint Moeletsi Motumise.
In fact, Morupisi confirmed that Motumise’s appointment was past of the agenda at a recent sitting of the JSC. The Botswana Gazette understands that the matter was however deffered “to deal with other pressing matters” which incidentally include applications for magisterial posts which the JSC is apparently inanundated with.
LSB Vice Chairperson, Onalethata Kambai, in a brief interview told this publication they have long served the JSC and will make an application to the court this week. “It is true that we have served the JSC, we will make a court application this week, anything else you may want to know or ask is in the application,” he said.