Justice was finally done yesterday when former first lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane was remanded in custody ahead of her trial for the June 2017 murder of Lipolelo Thabane.
As a disclaimer we are not saying that ‘Maesaiah is guilty of the crime as that will only be decided by the courts after the trial is done and dusted.
What we and the entire nation found incomprehensible, is the manner in which her bail application was railroaded by Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase.
After wresting the case from Justice Keketso Moahloli, Justice Mahase acted with what the Court of Appeal said was “unusual speed” to grant the former first lady bail.
Normal court procedures were thrown out of the window. The police were not even allowed to oppose the bail, granted without any consideration of the seriousness of the allegations levelled against her.
The police have complained they were not afforded an opportunity to state their case in opposition of the bail. It is a fundamental tenet of the rule of law that justice not only be done but be seen to be done.
A legal system that is seen as treating some citizens as being more equal than others is not only detrimental to the well-being of any nation, it completely obliterates trust and respect for the venerable women in those flowery robes and wigs. Where there is no rule of law, anarchy and poverty take root.
Lesotho’s upper courts largely comprise men and women of integrity. There are a few bad, if not wholly, rotten apples nonetheless. By virtue of her conduct – not once but on many occasions – Judge Mahase has defined herself in terms of such rottenness. No wonder that calls for her to be axed are mounting. She has embarrassed and disgraced the judiciary.
In its excoriation of her conduct, the Court of Appeal says Justice Mahase appears to have been determined to free ‘Maesaiah at all costs. She was even allowed to go home without paying the measly M1000, a figure inconsistent with the crime she is accused of. How many Basotho can ever expect to get that favour? Probably zero.
Justice Mahase could still have released her on bail as per her intuition and clairvoyance. But she could at least have created some semblance of following the rules. Her reprehensible conduct in the bail hearing as flagged by the Court of Appeal has once again exposed her prosaic incompetence.
Calls for her to be removed from the bench have intensified. We lend our support to the calls. She is undeserving of that rob and wig. She must go.
It can’t be a mere coincidence that her verdicts are always overturned by the apex court. The sooner a tribunal is established to ease her out the better, before she causes more damage. She is an unlamentable disaster.
Approve budget without further delays
NOW that the dust has settled and the new government is firmly in place, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and his new Finance minister Thabo Sofonea must ensure the 2020/21 budget is approved by parliament without any further delays.
The current financial year started on 1 April 2020 but due to the delays in approving the budget, the government has had to use public funds based on Section 113 of the constitution which allows a third of the budget estimates to be drawn from the consolidated fund for a maximum of four months before any new budget is approved.
But that if of course a very perilous path.
As the speaker of parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, warned last week, it will soon be legally impossible for the government to continue drawing funds for its operations from the consolidated revenue fund if parliament does not approve the 2020/21 budget by the end of this month.
The country is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that requires resources. About 45 000 factory workers have not received the promised M800 subsidy per worker to cushion them from the loss of salaries due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Civil servants will likely miss on their salaries if the budget is not approved.
Long suffering service providers, who perpetually real from delayed payments, will not be paid at all. All government business could grind to a halt. Above all, resources are required to help businesses debilitated by the deadly pandemic. The situation is quite dire. Dr Majoro was right not to push for the approval of the budget pending adjustments he said had become necessary in light of the pandemic.
It is vitally important to expedite those adjustments and ensure the passage of the budget. The budget is already inadequate anyway and we are likely to incur a huge fiscal deficit because of depressed revenues across the board. But it’s better to get going with what we have.