(8-8-1939 to 27-2016)
President Ian Khama has sent a condolence message to the family of the late Justice Elijah Legwaila, who passed away last week. A member of the Court of Appeal at the time of his death, during his long and distinguished public career the Honourable Justice Legwaila made an immense contribution to Botswana reputation for Good Governance and respect for the rule of law. Known for his personal qualities of modesty, firmness tempered with patience and teamwork, Justice Legwaila was an internationally respected lawyer, judge and long serving senior civil servant. His career highlights included his tenures as the Permanent Secretary to the President and Secretary to Cabinet from 1989 to 1998 and Judge President of the Industrial Court from 2000 to 2011.
Justice Legwaila was born in Mathathane village in the Bobirwa sub-District on the 8th of August 1939. He taught primary school before completing his secondary school studies at Moeng College. In 1972 he earned a law degree (L.L.B.) from the then University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, subsequently earning a Master’s Degree in Law (L.L.M.) at Harvard University in 1980. In 1972, he began his career in the public service as State Counsel in the Attorney General’s Chambers. He was promoted to principal State Counsel in 1975, rising to the post of Assistant Attorney General in 1976 and Deputy Attorney General during the following year. Besides giving general legal advice to Government, as Deputy Attorney General he was responsible for commercial contracts including the legal vetting of loans with international development institutions, as well as treaties and other international agreements.
In this context, he was a longstanding member of the Botswana delegations involved in the Lome convention negotiations between Africa, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) counties and the European Union, and the Preferential Trade Area for Southern and Eastern Africa. He also served as the Head of the Botswana delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In 1989 the late Legwaila was appointed by then President Sir Ketumile Masire as Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), a post whose responsibilities then as now further include being the Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to Cabinet. Justice Legwaila’s decade as PSP was marked by growth and reform in Government with expanded service delivery in terms of health, education and social services as well as the accelerated delivery of public infrastructure.
The success of Botswana’s governance model during the period attracted increased global as well as regional attention, consolidating Botswana’s international status as a benchmark for democratic development by achieving high levels of socio-economic progress, including human development, through effective service delivery with zero tolerance for corruption. After stepping down as PSP in 1998 Justice Legwaila was appointed as a Judge of the Industrial Court, becoming the Court’s Judge President from 2000 to 2011. In December 2011, following his retirement from the Industrial Court, Justice Legwaila was appointed to the Court of Appeal, a position he retained until the time of his death. From 1998 until 2013 the late Legwaila also notably served as the Chairperson of the University of Botswana Council. The Late Legwaila is to be buried in at Mathathane on Saturday. May his Soul Rest in Peace!