Judge died of Covid-19

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  • High Court’s commercial division suspends operations as a result

Mohalenyane Phakela

HIGH Court Judge Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane died of complications arising from Coronavirus (Covid-19), the judiciary revealed this week.

Her death, at Maseru Private Hospital on 14 July 2020, has resulted in the suspension of services at the Commercial Court which is housed in the Maseru Magistrates’ Court building.

High Court and Court of Appeal registrar, Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoai, said other judges at the High Court in the Palace of Justice building will hear commercial cases until 27 July 2020.

Adv Sekoai said it was expected that by that date, all the staffers who had been in contact with the late Justice Chaka-Makhooane would have been traced and tested.

Justice Chaka-Makhooane died on 14 July 2020. She had been admitted to hospital the previous night.

“It is true that Justice Chaka-Makhooane has been confirmed as one of the people who passed away due to Covid-19,” Adv Sekoai said in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

“The judiciary shall temporarily cease all its services on the premises of the Commercial Court from 20 to 26 July 2020. All the staff at these premises shall undergo a compulsory 14-day self-quarantine.

“The suspension of services is to allow contact tracing of all employees at the commercial division and in the meantime the commercial matters will be heard at the High Court by other judges.

“Ministry of Health authorities shall engage in the contact tracing of members of staff of the Commercial Court and test them for Covid-19. The services of the Commercial Court shall be offered at the main High Court (Palace of Justice) premises for the duration of this temporary closure.

“The Commercial Court shall partially open, with scaled-down services on 27 July 2020, until the contract tracing is complete.

“Members of the judiciary have been advised to remain vigilant and comply with the WHO guidelines and Ministry of Health regulations for minimising the spread of the Covid-19. We wish to assure court users and the nation of our continued commitment to an excellent, professional and seamless service despite this calamitous setback,” Adv Sekoai said.

Justice Chaka-Makhooane’s death came barely a month after the death of Justice Lebohang Molete. Last year the judiciary also lost Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane, who died in March 2019. The deaths have aggravated the chronic understaffing in the judiciary which is struggling to deal with a huge backlog of cases estimated to be in excess of 4000.

Justices Chaka-Makhooane and Molete were the only two judges at the Commercial Division of the High Court. This means that the division has been left without a judge. Unless new judges are appointed soon, there will be a huge backlog of cases.

 

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