Saturday, December 6, 2008

Remarks by H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe MP, at the joint dinner of the Administration of Justice and Law Society of Botswana

source: Republic of Botswana (6/12/08): TAUTONA TIMES no 40 of 2008
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President “Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline”


[Salutations]…Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am happy to be with you in this joint session hosted by the Judiciary and one of its key stakeholders, the Law Society of Botswana.

2. The theme that you have chosen “In partnership for a better justice system” is most appropriate for this session given your obligation and responsibility to ensure that justice is served to all and at all times. I understand that this is the second occasion of its kind and that the first one was held in this very same hall in 2005.

3. Today’s occasion is a clear testimony that there is collaboration between the key players in our justice system and this can only be to the benefit of our country. Bringing together under one roof their Lordships the Judges of the High Court, Magistrates, Legal Practitioners from private practice, Attorney General’s Chambers and Parastatals, their clients and potential clients as well as other important players in society, in such a serene atmosphere is indeed a tremendous accomplishment. I wonder who amongst you would wish to take credit for making this happen!!

4. Director of Ceremonies, since this is the first time I am addressing your forum let me take this opportunity to reassure you of Government’s commitment to continue elevating this country to a higher level; to build a nation that is disciplined, respects the fundamental rights and freedoms, thus upholding the dignity of its people. This is a collective responsibility that requires every leader in our society to contribute selflessly and tirelessly to the achievement of these goals.

5. The national goals that we have all set for ourselves can only be achieved if there is harmony among all the arms of Government that is, the Executive, Judiciary and the Legislature. His Excellency the President underlined the importance of this harmony in the recent State of the Nation Address:

6. ‘Our democracy is also embedded in a culture of tolerance and mutual respect…These qualities are reflected in our Constitution, which provides us with the framework by which the three arms of Government are not only held accountable to one another but, more importantly, to the public they have been established to serve. All three arms of Government, as well as other independent bodies, should therefore work together for the nation's shared benefit. In this way, the goals which unite us will continue to be far greater than any details that may divide us.’

7. You will no doubt agree with me that the founders of our Republic intended that there should exist in this country three strong organs of Government that should be trusted to work together, support each other and also play a crucial role of checking and balancing each other to prevent abuse of power. Suffice to say that in a democracy there is no public institution which has absolute authority.

8. In this way we have been able to consolidate our democracy and even elevate it to a much higher level. We must however, not take this relative success for granted. The need to continue to improve, nurture and harmonise our democracy with the changing times and circumstances is paramount.

9. Director of Ceremonies, Government has followed with keen interest the significant developments that have been taking place in the Judiciary over the years, and in particular, the efforts made to deal with the backlog and turnaround time of cases. It is our hope and expectation that these efforts will bear fruit because failure to do so will only serve to undermine confidence in the judiciary and in the process dampen investor confidence in our economy. Such reforms as the Court Record Management System and Judicial Case Management should ensure that no case is left unattended and that cases should have their turn in accordance with their time of registration and progress in line with agreed schedules.

10. I am convinced that your strict adherence to the starting times at the courts and the set agenda before the courts, as well as extended sitting hours demonstrate the Judiciary’s commitment to productivity improvement. Since these initiatives have the support of all the lawyers in the country we are confident that they will pay dividends in the not too distant future. All these efforts have inspired some hope and I would like to believe, a new culture of doing things in the Judiciary.

11. Director of Ceremonies, Ladies and Gentlemen, while we continue to work hard to build a sound culture of good governance and accountability in this country our efforts are being undermined by acts of greed, theft and corruption which are threatening to destroy the very fabric that binds us together as a nation. We are most concerned at the increase of such cases amongst members of the legal fraternity because the society expects better from these custodians of the legal system. I would expect that at a forum like this one you will reflect on these problems, discuss and explore ways in which you can contribute to the eradication of these vices.

12. It is imperative that, as a nation, we rid ourselves of these problems. And I want to make it abundantly clear that there should be no acceptable level of corruption in our society. No matter how few the cases might seem, these will only serve to frustrate the development and progress of our society and tarnish the good image of our country.

13. Another crime which is of great concern is that of stock theft. We all know the importance of cattle to Batswana. The mushrooming of criminal syndicates in this area is indeed a course for concern and a serious challenge that requires our collective efforts to address.

14. Director of Ceremonies, calls are being made for the removal of cases of stock theft from Magistrates’ Courts in order for these to be tried by Customary Courts. It has also been suggested that if such cases continue being tried in the Magistrates’ courts, assessors must be in attendance. All these suggestions demonstrate the concerns that Batswana have at the way stock theft cases have been handled. We must therefore, as a nation, carefully interrogate this problem and come up with a lasting and sustainable solution.

15. Ladies and Gentlemen, My Learned Friends, I know that there are different camps represented here tonight: the prosecutors, the defence lawyers and the bench, who naturally look at the problem I have just referred to from different angles. However, you know as well as I do that if cases are not properly investigated by officers who know what they are looking for, competently prosecuted with all the evidence brought before the courts and judged by an independent and impartial judiciary we cannot stamp out these crimes.

16. Officers of the courts must also be reminded that their duty is first to justice, to help the Courts administer justice and secondly to their clients. With this in mind always, justice will not only be done but will be seen to have been done.

17. Director of Ceremonies, the pace at which cases have been disposed of has also been a source of concern. We all agree that lengthy delays in disposing cases lead to injustice. I am convinced we can discourage these crimes by dealing with them much faster to prevent loss of evidence or loss of memory by witnesses. We are all alive to the adage “justice delayed is justice denied”. Recently, I heard another one, “Justice hurried is justice buried”. While we subscribe to that we however, believe that the balancing of the two maxims will produce acceptable speed of justice.

18. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have deliberately dealt at length with the role of the courts and the effect of crime on society to bring home the importance of a working system. I must also mention that we are currently engaged in preparing for the next development plan, NDP10. The impending NDP10 has put the private sector at the heart of the development process. Not only that, the business community has also developed a private sector development strategy in readiness to take its rightful place as the engine of economic growth in this country. I wish to remind some of you that you are part of the equation as providers of legal services. You are also in business, hence a critical part of the private sector.

19. Let me conclude by reiterating that the success of this country depends on the efficiency of all the role players in every sphere of life. In your case the speedy response of the judiciary to problems, the resolution of the disputes in a final way, the meting out of punishment that fits the crimes brought before the courts should result in promoting a culture of respect for the due process of the law and instil good morals in society. I rest my case and wish each and everyone of you a merry Christmas and a happy 2009. PULA !!

No comments: