‘Pardoned’ Judges under Police radar

Nicholas Mokwena
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
‘Pardoned’ Judges under Police radar

Four judges who were suspended by President Ian Khama in 2015 could still be under police investigations for receiving housing allowances while staying in government houses.

Registrar and Master of the High Court Michael Motlhabi is not aware if the investigation that was launched against the judges has been withdrawn or the case is still on. The police are also feigning ignorance in the matter.

On September 1, 2015 Khama suspended four judges - Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Rainer Busang - for alleged misconduct after it was found that they were paid undue housing allowances. 

The four got into a protracted legal battle with Khama and Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo who had reported them to the police to be investigated for earning housing allowances despite being accommodated in government houses. 

The suspended quartet and the Administration of Justice (AoJ) this year smoked the peace pipe, which led to a decision that the suspended four judges return to work. There were conditions attached to the pardon, as the judges were to withdraw all the cases before court, apologise to the president and undertake to pay back the money they have already received. 

Gaborone Central Police Station Commander Superintendent Vincent Pitseetsile said the matter was never with his office but could be with Borakanelo Police as High Court, which is in the Central Business District, falls within the Borakanelo Police jurisdiction. However, Borakanelo Police Station Commander Superintendent Mothusi Phadi said the matter is not with his office. 

“I do not know about the case. I thought the case was administrative and not criminal. I guess you should check with the High Court”, said Phadi. 

This week Motlhabi said the judges have in principle resumed duty. “They have returned in principle. Due to shortage of facilities they are not sitting because we already have judges who are acting on contract basis. But if they have a judgement that they are supposed to dispose of we always facilitate for facilities so that such a case could be dealt with”, said Motlhabi when appearing before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. 

He told the committee that the judges have withdrawn their case and they are to approach him to discuss how they would refund the state the monies owed. He said that one of the judges has already met with him and they have finalised. Motlhabi explained that Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Attorney General were not part of the settlement process where the judges approached the president and apologised. 

He said the decision to report the four judges was taken by JSC, which is chaired by Dibotelo after deliberating on the matter. He said, as the Secretary of the JSC advice was not sought from him as to what could be done regarding the matter. 

Motlhabi was responding to an enquiry from PAC member and MP for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse who wanted to know why the former did not advise the JSC to deal with the matter the same way it has been dealt with, with other senior public servants and some of the Industrial Court judges who have received overpayments. 

Keorapetse also expressed concern that the judiciary could be having judges who are sitting but still under investigation. The Registrar said he has no information of whether the police case formed part of the settlement between parties. He said the judges approached Office of the President and Dibotelo having been the subject matter was also approached, “and he accepted the apology tendered by the judges. I was there when they came to see him.”

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