Judge Molete dies

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

BARELY a year after the death of Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane, the judiciary has once again been plunged into mourning after the sudden death of another High Court Judge Lebohang Aaron Molete.

He was 61. He is survived by his wife ‘Maboitumelo and two adult sons, Bereng and Tlotliso.

A family spokesperson, Advocate Mohale Thipe, said Justice Molete died on Saturday morning while being ferried to Willies Hospital, Maseru, for treatment for complications arising from a recent stroke.

“He (Justice Molete) recently suffered a stroke and he had been receiving medical attention until he passed away on Saturday morning,” Adv Thipe told the Lesotho Times.

“He was like a father to us in the family and his sudden departure has left a huge void and we are crippled and mystified as we try to find answers as to why he had to go so soon.”

The late Justice Molete was born on 2 February 1959. He studied for his BA (Law) and LLB Degrees from the National University of Lesotho from 1976 to 1980.

He joined the legal profession in 1982 doing his articles (a legal apprenticeship) with prominent law firm Webber Newdigate. He rose through the ranks and became a partner in the same law firm in 1989.

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He has also worked as a consultant on the World Bank’s “Doing Business” project.

By 1994, he was specialising in commercial cases, labour as well as patent cases.

He became the first Mosotho judge to join the Commercial Division of the High Court in December 2010.

He was one of the presiding judges over the case of the slain Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) internal auditor, Mr Thibello Nteso, who was murdered in 2017. The murder happened shortly after Mr Nteso had raised alarm over the misappropriation of M170 million at the power utility. The case is pending before the High court.

He also found himself at the centre of controversy over his handling of the controversial MKM saga in 2018 when thousands of MKM Star Lion Group investors demanded that he recuse himself from the case for allegedly conniving with the liquidators engaged after the investment scheme was shut down by the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL).

MKM Star Lion Group was shut down in November 2007 by the CBL on the grounds that the company was illegally operating banking and insurance businesses. As a result, thousands of investors lost their money and the investors have a pending court case as they seek to recover their funds frozen by the CBL.

Justice Molete’s death comes barely a year since the passing on of Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane, who died in March 2019. Their 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.

After the enforced departure of former chief justice Nthomeng Majara (see story on page 9), the deaths of Justices Hlajoane and Molete as well as the expected retirement of three judges at the end of the year, there will only be 10 judges left to deal with the huge backlog of cases.

Justice Molete will be laid to rest on Saturday at his Khubetsoana home in Berea.

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