The best judge writes three law books


By Moïse Magadza

This year I have read three book reviews written by the Honorable Professor of Justice Oagile Bethuel Key Dingake, a former judge of the High Court of Botswana and now a member of the Supreme and National Courts of Papua New Guinea.

The books are: In Pursuit of Justice, Judges, and Towards A People’s Constitution for Botswana. Chief Justice Salika, Chief Justice of the Supreme and National Courts of Papua New Guinea and Professor Crawford, Dean of Law School at James Cook University, Australia and Professor Emeritus of Law, Yash, Ghai, Hong Kong University, have reviewed the books.

Recently I bought my own copies from Exclusive Books, OR International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The most recent review of his latest book: Towards A People’s Constitution for Botswana, with a preface by Professor Emeritus Yash Ghai, one of Kenya’s foremost constitutional law scholars and former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Cambodia for human rights, this article inspired me.

I felt prompted to pay tribute to Dingake, an outstanding African jurist, judge and scholar with whom I have interacted for over a decade. My own reviews of each of the above books are forthcoming. However, as a prelude, I seek to comment in a general way, on this legal giant which remains of a disarming humility.

Outlining Judge Dingake’s illustrious career in the service of the law, which all the above books speak of, I remember what he once wrote in one of his judgments and repeated in several forums.

He said: “Every historical epoch has its mood and the judges of that mood. It is up to today’s judges to raise the bar in human rights discourse. To do this, they must have heart, intelligence and courage.

The sentiment above explains why many people see him as a judicial icon, a judge with an unwavering determination to make an impact in the world by using the law as an instrument to improve the well-being of people.

Among the organizations concerned with human rights and equal rights for all, the name of Dingake comes up often. Judges quote his judgments with approval across the world.

Scholars approve of his thought while others cross swords with him. Many United Nations agencies have collected his judgments and are using them as educational material.

In legal circles in Botswana where he hails from, he is considered fearless and independent. The Mmegi newspaper described him as “every person’s judge.”

Last year, on the eve of his departure for PNG, a local commentator hit the nail on the head when he wrote an article titled “No Key no Justice”.

Many lawyers I have met in the SADC region who are familiar with Justice Dingake’s case-law production say it was a fitting and fitting tribute.

In feminist circles around the world, he is celebrated as a pioneer or the Thurgood Marshall of the gender justice movement. His decision in Mmusi is religiously cited with the approval of many progressive courts and has drawn dozens of academic commentary in peer-reviewed journals.

Many of his colleagues on the bench and in academia consider him the Lord Denning of Botswana. This sentiment is shared by Professor Evance Kalula of the University of Cape Town.

Earlier this year, Professor Paula Tavrow, University of California Los Angeles, USA, compared Dingake to that US Supreme Court mainstay, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, famous for being an advocate. gender equality.

In rendering his judgment in the Mmusi case, which won him an international prize for gender justice, Dingake wrote: “It seems to me that the time has now come for the judges of this court to assume the role of sage. -woman forensic and helping the new world struggling to be born. Discrimination against women has no place in our modern society.

In the case law of labor law, he has sought to defend the values ​​of the fundamental conventions of the ILO, which, among others, consider the right to strike of workers, after having exhausted all avenues of dispute resolution, such as sacrosanct.

He is famous for using the metaphor of a boxing ring to capture the essence of a strike in industrial relations, always warning that the courts must be impartial arbitrators and not seek to coerce any of the participants in the ‘match’. boxing ”.

Professor Webner of Keele University, UK, in one of his books, wrote that Judge Dingake’s judgments exude astonishing intellectual depth and brilliance, and goes so far as to suggest that one of its labor law judgments should be made “an annex to the Constitution of Botswana.”

During his illustrious legal and judicial career, conservative judges have often wriggled in their rotating chairs, but never succeeded in uprooting his pro-human rights reasoning.

His simplicity of style, his mastery of facts and law, his comparative prudential production and his occasional excesses in the scholastic fallacy are legendary. It is because of this fallacy that Arnold Tsunga, director of the International Commission of Jurists, Africa Division, once described Judge Dingake as “one of Africa’s most intellectually charged judges”.

Justice Dingake’s contribution to constitutional law in Botswana is legendary and many law students in Africa and beyond see him as a role model and inspiration.

Some people have suggested that his many compelling speeches on gender-based violence, tuberculosis, the law, the media, HIV and the criminal law should be turned into a book and preserved for future generations.

A professor at the University of Cape Town, where Judge Dingake is a professor of public law, recently reminded me of Judge Dingake’s absolute commitment to constitutionalism and the rule of law. He pointed out that Dingake has often used the constitution as an instrument of transformation, not only to overturn oppressive and archaic laws, but also institutions and practices that prevent humanity from realizing the rights of minorities: women, children. , refugees, prisoners and the LGBTI community. .

In most of his main constitutional law statements, such as in his famous cases such as Diau, Nelson, Mmusi, Oatile, Bopeu, Mathabo and Khwarae, he made it clear that it was up to the courts to define the boundaries, the context and content. human pantyhose.

I was anxious to know where Judge Dingake has all the time to write books. The clue that I read in some online snippets about his life is that his parents instilled in him an incredible work ethic, self-discipline and the importance of achieving goals early on. Her parents taught her that hard work doesn’t kill. They taught him to love every person and to avoid greed.

His iconic brother, Michael Dingake, a longtime political prisoner on Robben Island in South Africa, once wrote about Judge Dingake’s aversion to greed. He said that once, while doing his masters at the University of London, the judge sent him a revealing postcard. There was an inscription from Dom Helder Camara, saying: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor don’t have food, they call me a communist ”.

It is safe to conclude that having proven against all odds that he is an intellectual colossus, who cannot be ignored or desired – a judicial high priest and a tireless crusader of justice – Dingake’s place in the annals of the history, is assured.

– Moses Magadza is a multi-award winning journalist and doctoral student interested in how the media frames key populations.


Nancy I. Romero

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