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Pilane clashes with Court of Appeal Judges

Publishing Date : 06 March, 2018

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

Advocate Sidney Pilane this week lashed out at a bench of Court of Appeal (CoA) well regarded judges, accusing them of interjecting him “too much” during his oral submissions.


Pilane who is held with high esteem in the law fraternity cautioned the Judges to guard against interpolating as they interfered with his arguments as well as how he wanted to put them across. The panel consisted of three lordships in the mould of CoA President Justice Ian Kirby, Justice(s) Lord Arthur Hamilton and Jacobus Brand.


Pilane launched the scathing attack when deliberating in a case in which Kgatleng District Council (KDC) was appealing a High Court judgement by Justice Terrence Rannowane. Justice Rannowane had reviewed and set aside the decision by the KDC to refuse to grant Mochudi Wholesalers a building permit and subsequently an occupation permit. The permits, including other requirements satisfaction would have seen Mochudi Wholesalers start trading at the three storey building which is in the shape of a shopping complex now turned white elephant.


Following his one hour deliberations and going into the lunch break, the nonconformist Advocate Pilane raised the concern to Kirby and the two other juries that “you interject too much and I get derailed on my submissions”. Pilane, who can be easily regarded among the first Batswana to earn the title of an Advocate, justified to the panel of judges that they were making him not to argue his case as he wants to “in a coherent manner”.


“One judge asks a question, and while am attempting to answer the other one asks a different one. And I end up not being able to put my main case or argument coherently,” Pilane told the judges to their faces. In hearing the concern, Judge President Kirby who looked not amused by the accusations said they could as well keep quite throughout his submissions if Pilane so wished.  “We can all keep quiet, listen until you finish, if it is what you want,” Kirby highlighted to the eccentric Advocate.


In response to Kirby’s comment, Pilane said he was only asking that the judges be considerate. He stated: “I was just asking for you to be considerate and in no way am I implying that the questions/inquiries you pose to me are not helpful. Neither am I saying the answers I give are not of assistance to your lordships.” Kirby also highlighted that senior counsel, Advocate Nigel Redman, who also made submissions before Pilane, was also subjected to similar interjection from the same panel.


It is not the first time that the Judges could not escape the wrath of the one-of-a-kind Pilane whom in February last year expressed the “chilling” similar views. He accused the CoA of having “a lack of respect for lawyers”. According to reports, Pilane told a bench of five CoA judges then that his junior lawyer, Mboki Chilisa (in a case in which they were both pursuing) was “attacked, interrupted and terrorised by the judges who were presiding over a case in which a teacher was fired for criticising President Ian Khama and his administration.”


According to the reports, Advocate Pilane complained that Chilisa was harassed and abused by the judges when he appeared before court. He had said then that “we are happy to be asked questions so that we provide clarity to the court but we want to be respected as we respect the court. He (Chilisa) was constantly interrupted and he hardly finished his sentences.” At some point, Pilane who is also the leader of opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), an affiliate of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), quit the party to try his luck for the Judgeship of the court.


Justice Kirby reserves judgement on main case

Meanwhile, Justice Kirby reserved the judgement on the Council and Mochudi matter to 2 February (in two weeks time). In the main appeal the Council said Justice Rannowane, in his High Court judgement, lost sight of the fact that the application before him was a review of the administrative decision made by the appellant (KDC) on 28 May 2013.


Court papers by KDC indicate that although the appellant (KDC) had negotiated with Mochudi; it had untimely determined that “it could not grant Mochudi a building permit and therefore an occupation permits in respect of the building.  The reason for this was manifest. The appellant had not been satisfied by Mochudi that the building is structurally sound.”


The Council continued to point out that, in light of Mochudi having commenced and completed the construction of the building without having obtained the necessary approvals, it was aware that the appellants had been precluded from participating in the building process and from having inspected the construction work at various intervals. “Having regard thereto, it would have been incumbent upon Mochudi to satisfy the appellant of the structurally integrity of the building.”  


Justice Rannowane had ruled that the parties were to engage an expert and assess the current structural soundness of the appellant’s building and if satisfied recommend remedial measures and thereafter issue a building and an occupation permit to the appellant. Mochudi Wholesalers Pty (Ltd) had erected the shopping complex and completed in 2003. They were asked in 2009 to demolish and remove the portion of the development from the road reserve as it was said to be encroaching on Pilane/Mochudi road reserve.


On the matter, Pilane said it is clear from the facts that KDC is acting dishonestly and with contumely. “Furthermore the building in question was completed as far back as 2003. More than 12 years have since lapsed with the building vacant, and being subjected to sporadic acts of vandalism, all at their expense.” The appellant, KDC was represented by Senior Counsel, Advocate Nigel Redman, Attorney Laone Serole and Steve Rankwana from Serole and Partners attorneys. Advocate Sidney Pilane together with attorney Monyaka Makunyana were fighting on the side of the Mochudi Wholesalers who own the disputed building.

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