Thursday, February 26, 2009

Response by Administration of Justice to allegations published in Guardian newspaper of 6 February 2009

source: Republic of Botswana (16/2/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 3 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President "Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"

C4) 11/2/09: Response by Administration of Justice to allegations published in Guardian newspaper of 6 February 2009

We have read the leading story in the Guardian newspaper of Friday 6th February 2009, regarding the interviews for vacant posts of judges carried out at Lobatse High Court on the 29th of January 2009 under the heading 'Interviews for judges' posts, was the process free and fair.' We wish to respond to the story which we find grossly misleading and containing serious flaws.

By advertising vacancies for judicial positions, the judicial Services Commission was introducing a best practice in the recruitment process that is becoming common around the world. This was intended to inter alia promote transparency in the recruitment process of judges by allowing competition from all eligible candidates in the country.

The posts in question were advertised in December 2008, through the local media for the attention of everyone qualified in terms of the law.

Applications were received from a large number of applicants (indicate number), and like every appointing authority, the JSC had to agree on the best way of approaching the applications. The JSC therefore met and prepared a short list of candidates based upon agreed criteria that were, objective, free from bias, favouritism or discrimination.

Thus the allegation that the JSC, 'had already hand picked it's preferred candidates and stage managed the interview process as a smoke- screen to create a semblance of fairness' is false, intended to mislead the public and denigrate the Judicial Service Commission and its operations.

The Judicial Service Commission is created by the Constitution, and comprises respectable members such as the Chief Justice, the Attorney General, the Judge President of the Court of Appeal, the chairman of the Public Service Commission, a representative of the Law Society of Botswana and a member appointed by His Excellency the President. These members are conscious of the weighty responsibilities placed upon them by the Constitution as they subscribe to an oath of office for the due execution of their duties. The allegations in the article are therefore an unwarranted attack on the JSC and the integrity of its members.

The report further alleges that the decision that the officers who did not make the short list were not going to be interviewed was communicated to the said officers by a clerk of court. This once again is false, and intended to confuse the public. The fact of the matter is that the decision of the Judicial Service Commission was communicated to the applicants by the Registrar and Master of the High Court, who is also its secretary.

Another falsehood mentioned in the article is the reason advanced for not interviewing the candidates. It is alleged that the candidates were informed that they could not be interviewed due to a technicality. Nothing of that nature was mentioned as the reasons advanced by the Registrar. It appears that this was a fabrication intended to embellish the story to make it look credible.

We further wish it to be noted that in terms of the Constitution, the JSC regulates its own procedure. It is in pursuance of that provision that the Commission met before the meeting to agree on the best way of approaching the interviews. This explains why all the candidates were invited to Lobatse on that day. The inconvenience caused by this arrangement is regretted as it was not intended to humiliate anyone of the applicants and an apology was immediately tendered to the applicants at the time.

In conclusion we confirm that the process of interviewing judges for the advertised posts followed acceptable, fair rules, and that the JSC is a respectable institution that is free from the influences attributed to it by the writer of the article.

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