Justice Phumaphi retires

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Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

BOTSWANA High Court judge, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, has retired after 42 years in the legal profession.

Justice Phumaphi was appointed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in July 2015 to lead a 10-member Commission of Inquiry investigating the killing of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Maaparankoe Mahao by his colleagues. The probe was held between 31 August and 23 October 2015.

Lt-Gen Mahao was killed on 25 June 2015 outside Maseru during an army operation to arrest soldiers suspected of being part of an alleged plot to topple the LDF command of which he was accused of being the ringleader.

The LDF insists Lt-Gen Mahao was shot while resisting arrest, but his  family claims he was assassinated.

Soon after the killing, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked SADC to help establish the circumstances surrounding the shooting. The probe team has since submitted its report which includes recommendations for the government to implement.

According to Botswana media reports, Justice Phumaphi was described by his erstwhile colleagues as a “colossal legal luminary” during a farewell dinner held in Francistown on Saturday.

Botswana Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo said the judge had “meritoriously served for 13 years as a High Court judge after leaving his career in private practice”.

He said Justice Phumaphi reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in July last year, but was permitted to continue as a judge by President Ian Khama.

“This was done to enable him to complete cases which were pending before him, including the delivery of judgments as well as to finish the onerous task he was assigned to in the Kingdom of Lesotho,” Justice Dibotelo was quoted as saying by the Botswana Daily News.

The chief justice added Justice Phumaphi “represented Botswana well in quelling and stabilising the crisis and volatile situation that was in Lesotho”.

The chief justice also wished Justice Phumaphi well, saying he would have the time to do what he had always had passion for—cattle farming.

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