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Chief justice is undermining judicial independence-judge Komboni

A Maun high court judge, Bugalo Maripe has slammed the chief justice, Terrence Rannowane and interdicted him from transferring a case involving himself and a High Court Judge from Maun to be heard by judges of his choice in Gaborone.

In strongly worded judgment delivered on Wednesday morning, Judge Maripe said the decision by CJ to appoint a panel of judges to preside over the matter; “Undermines judicial independence and is inconsistent with section 10 (9) of the constitution.”

The chief Justice was dragged to the Maun court by justice Gabriel Gadzani Komboni who is opposing his transfer from Gaborone to Francistown High court.

In a move to stop his transfer, Komboni filed an urgent court application in Maun but before the matter could even be heard, Justice Rannowane wrote to the Maun High court informing them that he had appointed a panel of three judges that will hear and decide on Komboni’s application.

The panel, according to CJ’s letter included, Godfrey Radijeng, Tshegofatsho Mogomotsi and Ookeditse Maphakwane.

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“In the exercise of powers vested in me by section 6 of the High Court Act, as read with order 42B of the rules of the High court (amendment) rules 2021, I have determined that the above case is of exceptional public importance. Consequently I have set up a three Judge panel to hear and determine the matter,” reads part of the CJ’s letter which was filed in Maun on Tuesday this week, a day before the urgent application was heard.

Justice Rannowane also noted that; “Furthermore I hereby direct that the case be immediately transferred to Gaborone High court division where it should have been registered in the first place taking into account that all the parties to the case reside in Gaborone. The deputy registrar for Maun High Court is hereby directed to make prompt arrangements to have the case so transferred.”

Questioning the CJ’s move and viewing it as forum shopping and a direct interference with judicial independence, Komboni’s attorney wanted to know from Judge Maripe, whether he would allow the CJ to set up a forum in a matter that he is a respondent.

Meanwhile in his urgent application which will be called for status hearing on December 1st, Komboni has argued that Justice Rannowane’s reason to transfer him to go and take over Judge Barnabas Nyamadzabo’s workload in Francistown as the latter will be transferred to Gaborone to take part in preparation for 2024 general elections was not good enough.

Nyamadzabo was recently appointed chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and according to Komboni that is not a strong enough reason because a precedent was already set whereby another Francistown based judge (now retired), John Mosojane had in the past held the same position before but still discharged his duties diligently while still based in Francistown.

Komboni is also of the view that that CJ has no legal authority to transfer judges as that duty is reserved for Judicial Service commission. The CJ, Komboni has said, can only transfer magistrates instead.

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Komboni was appointed judge in July 2018 to be stationed in Gaborone and took oath of office and commenced duty three months later. Prior to the appointment he was running a law firm in Francistown, operating under Phumaphi Chakalisa & company law firm.

“As a result of having to take up the appointment, I had to relocate to Gaborone with my family. My wife subsequently set-up a horticulture business in Kumakwane, a village near Gaborone, a business which she manages on a full time basis,” Komboni added in the application.

The frustrated judge also noted that when he attempted to make the CJ understand that the transfer will destabilise his family and personal life, the CJ allegedly told him that prior to his promotion, he was also transferred many times and never objected.

The CJ had then apparently wrote a letter to Justice Komboni to inform him that he will refer him to the Judicial Service Commission for appropriate action as he has refused to obey lawful instruction, an action which set in motion the court case.

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