In praise of Lady Justice Faith Mwondha for telling the truth

Sunday August 25 2019

 

By Prof George W. Kanyeihamba

Daily Monitor on May 28 exposed what can be described as a scandal in Supreme Court. It partly explains why petitioners have never succeeded in convincing majorities of judges resolving presidential and other constitutional petitions challenging Executive powers.

In the past, some appellate judges have simply accepted or upheld counsel’s arguments and colleagues’ plausible as facts and legal while summarily dismissing opposing facts and opinions as merely speculative, or political.

Lady Justice Faith Mwondha has always been different from colleagues. I admit that I am among her former colleagues who have ever criticised her, but for reasons far removed from corruption or deliberate wrongdoing or deliberately shacking from her judicial duties, patriotism, or dignity.

Many of us, therefore, believed her when she said, “I am a hired justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda on full time basis and on permanent and pensionable terms to hear and determine cases, not merely to participate. I earn a salary and allowances. Honoraria is not part of my terms and conditions of service.”

The Lord Chief Justice and then Secretary to the Judiciary in defending the Shs500m honoraria in the handling of the age limit appeal have given reasons which until May 28 the country, most judges and judicial offices never knew before. The money was said to have been paid in facilitation for judges, registrars, magistrates, drivers and bodyguards, among others.

I joined the Supreme Court as a judge in 1997 and participated in some of the most controversial and complicated appeals and petitions, but to my knowledge, none of my colleagues, including Chief Justice Bart Katureebe who joined us later, had been promised or paid what the two senior managers of the Judiciary claimed to be a fact.

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The Chief Justice has cited circular standing order No. 04 of 2008 that provides for honoraria. In 2009, I was still a judge of the Supreme Court and I swear that I had never heard of it until Mr Kagole Kivumbi magically mentioned it in his unconvincing defence of it.
I did not wish to contradict the Chief Justice when he confirms that honoraria has been a norm of the Judiciary and that this is embedded in the Public Service Standing Orders and has always been paid to judges and judicial officers in particular cases.

If Lord Justice Katureebe is right, I am then in luck. On this basis, we retired judges of the Supreme Court together with those of lower courts such as registrars, magistrates, research assistances, clerks, secretaries, drivers and bodyguards, among others, must claim our share.

The important witness for us will be then secretary to the Judiciary who will explain that much of the work in the Judiciary is done outside the scope of the judges’ working time because they spend most hours in court.
They are to be paid for reading literature and writing their judgment outside court hours, including nights and weekends.

Our lawyer will ask him how he can compute the value and quantity of these night working hours and cost the same, including allowances of the for justices who did not participate in the appeal at all.

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.
gwkany@yahoo.com

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