Former Gaborone Mayor, Ramaotwana Nelson Ramaotwana – Botswana National Front’s (BNF) Secretary for International Affairs – has joined a long list of victims that were blocked by President Ian Khama from being appointed to the judiciary notwithstanding recommendations from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Information unearthed by The Patriot on Sunday shows that following a recommendation in February 2015 Khama refused to appoint Ramaotwana to the position of Senior Magistrate which had become available in Molepolole. He was then senior prosecution (state) counsel at Attorney General's Chambers based in Lobatse. A round robin resolution of the JSC meeting dated 25th February 2015, which was passed to Office of the President for approval, reads: "It is recommended that Mr Ramaotwana Nelson Ramaotwana be appointed Senior Magistrate". Currently in private practice, Ramaotwana says he was never given reasons why his application for the post was unsuccessful. However, in a shocking turn of events that left him convinced that Khama denied him the appointment because of his well-known political affiliation to opposition parties, Ramaotwana says he was visited by a man who claimed to be a 'messenger' from the Administration of Justice leadership. His message was simple: the JSC wanted him to know that they had recommended him for appointment to the Senior Magistrate post which had not been approved and there was nothing they could do. In another revealing development Ramaotwana says shortly after the strange visitor he received a telephone call from a woman claiming to be calling from Office of the President. She sought to establish if Ramaotwana was unhappy with the salary he was getting at AGs and if his application to join the magistracy was motivated by financial benefits. In addition, she wanted to know if Ramaotwana would stay at AGs if he was to be promoted to a position with an equivalent salary scale and benefits within AGs.
"I told her my motivation was simply professional development, hence the reason I wanted to move from prosecution to preside over matters. I told her I had stayed long enough in prosecution. I never heard from them again," says Ramaotwana, adding that he never pursued the matter to establish why Khama blocked his appointment because that would be a futile exercise. He later resigned from public service in frustration and is currently a private attorney at Kambai Attorneys in Gaborone. Ramaotwana is a long-time activist of the BNF, who in his student days was the president of the University of Botswana Student Representative Council under MASS BNF group. He was later elected Mayor of Gaborone under the same political party. His political activism only subsided when Ramaotwana, after vacating the mayoral office, secured employment with the AGs as a junior lawyer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law (LLB) from the University of Botswana obtained on the 9th October 2004 and a Master of Laws degree in Labour Law from the University of the North West, Republic of South Africa obtained on the 9th May 2013. Ramaotwana joins the likes of senior attorney Lizo Ngcongco and Omphemetse Motumise, whom Khama refused to appoint judges after doing well in interviews before the JSC and being recommended for approval. To date Khama continues to ignore an order by the highest court in the land – Court of Appeal – to effect appointment of Motumise to the bench as per JSC recommendations despite assurances from Minister of Justice, Defence and Security Shaw Kgathi and PSP Carter Morupisi. The duo appeared in a choreographed 'press briefing' broadcast on state television – Botswana television – declaring that Khama is in the process of complying with recommendations of the JSC and enforcing the court order which nullified and declared unlawful his refusal to appoint Motumise as a judge without justification.
Ramaotwana impresses JSC
The JSC at its meeting of the 6th February 2015 considered an application for the renewal of contract by one Bhekimpilo Sibanda, an expatriate Senior Magistrate then stationed at the Molepolole Magistrate Court. His contract of twenty-four (24) months was to terminate on 5th May 2015. Consequently, a Senior Magistrate position would fall vacant effective 6th May 2015, which JSC found expedient to seek an immediate suitable replacement with the view to minimise disruption of service due to manpower shortage at the Molepolole Magistrate Court upon the departure of Sibanda. In line with the spirit of localising some of senior positions and the availability of qualified and experienced citizens, the JSC resolved not to support and recommend the renewal of Sibanda’s application. JSC was of the view that most of the citizen magistrates in the lower grades were continuing to demonstrate maturity; experience and preparedness to assume higher levels of responsibility within the magistracy. In considering a suitable replacement candidate, Chairman of the JSC Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, made reference to the deliberations of the meeting of the Judicial Service Commission of the 14th November 2014 at which Ramaotwana, a shortlisted candidate for the vacant position of Magistrate Grade I, tenable in Mahalapye was interviewed and emerged as the second best performing candidate and for that reason could not be recommended for appointment as the interview at the time was for purposes of filling one vacant position. JSC members had expressed their satisfaction regarding the performance of Ramaotwana during the interview and his suitability for appointment. Four references submitted in support of Ramaotwana’s application described him as an organised, industrious, enthusiastic, decisive and devoted employee with strong interpersonal and communication skills. JSC members were reminded that Ramaotwana was not recommended for lack of the required key competencies for the job, but because there was no other vacant Magistrate Grade I position onto which to appoint him.
With a view to avert disruption of service due to manpower shortages and impressive performance before JSC by Ramaotwana during the interview on the 14th November 2014, and the challenges of finding a suitable candidate for the recruitment at this level from the open market willing to serve anywhere in the country, Dibotelo found it befitting to suggest to members to pass a resolution by round robin recommending to President Ian Khama the appointment of Ramaotwana as Senior Magistrate. Correspondence from JSC Secretary Michael Motlhabi – the Registrar and Master of the High Court – to members, seen by The Patriot on Sunday reads: "on the strength of his performance during the interview, his academic qualifications, maturity and work experience, the Judicial Service Commission held a firm view that he (Ramotwana) could in the future be reconsidered for appointment as a Magistrate should a vacancy become available. Neither the Judicial Service Commission nor the Administration of Justice was aware at the time that hardly three (3) month later such a vacancy would become available. It is important to highlight that when the Judicial Service Commission sit for its next meeting on the 8th May 2015, Sibanda would have vacated office resulting in manpower shortfall and creation of backlog of cases if not expeditiously addressed through the appointment of a magistrate of equivalent jurisdiction".