When the heat became unbearable for the Francistown High Court Judge, Kholisani Solo on Tuesday in Francistown, he had no choice but to recuse himself from a case he was presiding over.
The Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) had applied for his recusal in a case in which one of its members, Levy Holonga, had taken the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) to court for allegedly dismissing him unfairly.
According to the court order made in his chambers Solo said, “In view of comments I have made and having listened to senior Counsel, I recuse myself.” This follows hard on the heels of court proceedings late last year in which Justice Solo threatened to charge Holonga’s lawyer, Otto Itumeleng with contempt of court. This time Itumeleng had roped in Advocate Sidney Pilane to fight on Holonga’s corner. BOPEU president, Andrew Motsamai and other members of the union attended the session.
Holonga is a former Airport Operations Officer. On the 24th November 2015, Justice Solo refused to recuse himself from the case insisting that his recusal will have to be laid down in full in accordance with the law. “If the application is valid I will recuse myself. Why would I listen to a matter in which I have an interest in,” said Solo last year.
He explained further saying that he has no idea if there are any links between himself, CAAB and BOPEU. At the time, he directed the applicant to file and submit heads of arguments of the matter and file comprehensive documentation showing links between himself to the CAAB and BOPEU within 14 days. He also said that the documentation must be admissible. He then made an order that a lawyer from the Attorney General Chambers (AGC) appear in court as amicus curiae (friend of the court). “This is in the best interest of the court that the matter be dealt with in a just way and properly in terms of the law,” he said.
The tussle between Holonga and Justice Solo emanates from lack of trust. This results from newspaper reports that Justice Solo in September last year allegedly signed a solidarity letter in support of the three Judges suspended by the President. Justice Solo later withdrew his signature from the petition he had signed. According to media reports, he apologised to the President and pledged allegiance to him claiming that he had signed the petition due to ‘group think’.
In his application for Justice Solo’s recusal, Holonga is quoted in one of the local newspapers saying, “These allegations, if proved to be correct will definitely compromise the standing of his Lordship (Solo) as an impartial adjudicator in cases where the appointing authority who is also the head of executive, has an interest, as the case in the present matter where I am suing CAAB.”