Outgoing High Court Judge, Singh Walia is expected to sit in the July Court of Appeal Session, Registrar and Master of the High Court Michael Motlhabi has revealed.
Justice Walia who would be retiring at the end of this month would be joining the appeals court bench as acting judge. Justice Walia, who reached the retirement age of 70 last year, had his contract extended by another six months to allow him to complete matters already before him.
Motlhabi said it is expected that Justice Walia would have completed the cases before him by end of the month. He said during his extension the judge would not be given fresh matters to preside over.
Motlhabi said this when appearing before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week. He said that if the judge presides over an urgent application, the case is not treated as a fresh matter because the case would be disposed of within a reasonable time. PAC member MP for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse had expressed concern that some judges could have been given an extension in their contracts but were seized with fresh cases.
“You have to be very careful with this extension because even an urgent application could be dealt with in a year. A year is not a short time and this would mean the judge would have his or her contract extended with a year. This could lead to judges extending their contracts indirectly by presiding over urgent cases”, said Keorapetse.
Motlhabi stated that Justice Walia who is a naturalised Motswana would be the fourth Motswana judge to join the Appeals Court bench. Other Batswana Judges are Court President Ian Kirby, Justice Stephen Gaongalelwe and Justice Isaac Lesetedi. Other members are foreign judges on a three year contract. Motlhabi explained that the Administration of Justice is making efforts to ensure that when an expatriate leaves at the end of contract s/he is replaced by Motswana.
Asked why it took the country 50 years to localise the court of appeal, Motlhabi said it is a work in progress. “We are also concerned but we are working on it”, he said. Opposition parties have complained that the court of appeal has been dominated by foreigners while there are qualified Batswana to sit in the bench.
When Parliament amended the Court of Appeal Act early this year MP for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse asked Parliament through an amendment to localise the court of appeal bench. The motion was however defeated.