After years of secretly complaining that some judgments delivered in the High Court and the highest court in the land -the Court of Appeal- are uninspiring and characterised by poor reasoning, lawyers have finally opened up about the issue. Chairman of the Law Society of Botswana (LSB), Kgalalelo Monthe, on Tuesday did not mince words criticising some judges for delivering poor quality decisions. He said lawyers are more and more speaking in hushed tones about outcomes in the courts that seem to lack logic, in which a judgment or a ruling bears no relationship with the facts and/or legal arguments before the court. "We have been spared for the better part of half a century of our existence as a republic the scourge of corruption and/or bribery of judicial officers by both the public and legal practitioners but however, we should continue to be vigilant against such as it has the ability to make people lose confidence in the justice system and a real challenge to the rule of law. Obviously it would be remiss not to caution our members who engage in any malpractice in this regard. We all know that it takes two to tango. Without an approach, corruption would not happen," cautioned Monthe, without specific reference to any incident but evidently concerned about the possibility due to growing complaints from lawyers.
Although he steered clear of naming and shaming the culprits or those suspected to be involved in corruption, Monthe revealed more than he was saying when he elaborated that LSB is working on the issue of coruption and bribery and hopes that in due course those who are involved in this menace will be brought to book. It was only as far as he chose to reveal. On the dangers of corruption, Monthe said the issue was ventilated sufficiently by speakers at the SADC Lawyers Association Conference during August 2017, who discussed the dangers of corruption and Illicit Financial Flows on the economy and social fabric of the people of Africa. "Indeed there was general agreement that such malfeasance is done mostly by the rich and politically connected. This view was also the theme of the Pan African Law’s Union (PALU)’ Conference in July 2017 in Durban, South Africa," he said, citing the unfolding saga around the National Petroleum Fund which has seen no less than three local Executives charged with money laundering involving close to half a billion pula. He therefore reiterated the urgent need, as articulated by Business Botswana and other stakeholders, to inquire into the state and management of our public Funds that are not controlled through the Budget. "We believe it is time the various Funds are brought into the Consolidated Fund for purposes of proper accountability and be audited on a regular basis to ensure that those in charge of such Funds have not deviated from their stated and legal purpose," said Monthe.
Monthe expressed concern that the problem of slow disposal of cases and delayed delivery of judgments persists, despite the issue being raised in previous years. He said staistics show instances where judgments are delivered after two or three years, which he said is bad for all litigants but more so for business and foreign investment. According to Monthe, LSB and Business Botswana (BB) have raised the matter at various Defence, Justice and Security Sectoral meetings and offered that senior members of the Law Society be appointed on short term basis to deal with Motion matters such as Default and Summary Judgments, short unopposed applications etc. even on a pro bono basis." This would free Judges to concentrate on trials and writing of Judgments. The Society has not received a response to this overture. We wish to state that accepting this proposal will not and should not be seen by the AoJ as admitting failure but a proactive step to improve delivery of Justice," he said. Monthe called on all stakeholders in the judicial system to work together to bring justice to litigants. "Let us reduce the time it takes to conclude matters. Let us not overreach our clients. Let us be fair, independent, professional and above all let us ensure integrity in all that we do," he said.