Administration of Justice (AOJ)
The Hierarchy of the Courts
The Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeal is the apex Court, the highest and final court in the land. The Court is the final arbiter of all legal matters in Botswana. Currently, there are eight expatriate Judges of the Court of Appeal, drawn from different parts of the Commonwealth. This has enriched the court and brought diversity and dynamism in the court. To date, no Motswana has ever been appointed to the Court of Appeal, although arrangements have been made for Judges of the High Court to sit in that court during its session, to expose them to its operations. This is also intended to prepare judges of the High Court for the eventual localization of the court.
The High Court
This is the court that lies between the Magistrate Court and the Court of Appeal. It was created as a superior court of record with, unlimited original jurisdiction to hear and determine any criminal and civil cases under any law. This means therefore, that the doors of the High Court are open for cases of all types, from family matters to Criminal matters.
Up until 1992, Judges of the High Court were expatriate Judges who were appointed on short contracts of 2-3 years. However this has since changed, and today, out of the 16 permanent judges, only one is expatriate. The localization of the High Court started in 1992, when two citizen judges were appointed to the bench. The late Hon. Justice Moleleki Didwell Mokama was appointed the first citizen Chief Justice of Botswana, while Justice Julian Mukwesu Nganunu, the current Chief Justice was appointed a Judge of the High Court at the same time. During 1992, Mr. Lethebe Maine was appointed Acting Judge for a short period. This marked a change in the history of the Judiciary of Botswana, in that for the first time the Judiciary came under the control of citizens.
Currently there are two High Court divisions; the main one being the head quarters at Lobatse and the other one is in the northern part of the country, in Francistown. A third division of the High Court is being set up in Gaborone and construction is due to commence during this plan period, NDPIO.
The Magistrates Courts
Magistrates courts are created by statute, the Magistrates Courts Act, as subordinate courts. They are subordinate to the High Court. Unlike the High Court, Magistrates Courts are not created by the Constitution. They are therefore controlled and supervised by the High Court, through reviews and appeals. Powers of these courts are defined in the Act.
The Botswana Magistracy performs a very pivotal role in the Judiciary of this country. The Magistrates try the bulk of the offences committed in this country and they handle the bulk of common disputes between ordinary citizens of Botswana.
The following services are obtainable at the Magistrates Courts:
- Family related cases such as paternity and maintenance orders
- Adoption of children
- Restraining orders in domestic violence cases
- Civil suits; here individuals sue others for non-payment of debts, breach of contracts, etc.
- Motion Court
- Criminal trials- Magistrates Courts hear the bulk of criminal cases such as rape, robbery, theft, assault etc.
Magistrates Courts have gone through a complete transformation, from courts that were presided over by Administration Officers to courts wholly manned by professional Magistrates with legal qualifications. In 1966, there were only two magistrate courts in the country, one in Lobatse and the other in Francistown. But the growth and development of Magistrate Courts has been phenomenal. Today, the courts operate in 19 different centres around the country. These courts handle a large percentage of litigation in the country. Currently, there are 50 magistrates in the country, 17 of whom are expatriate.