JUDICIAL Service Commission (JSC) secretary, Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoai, is embroiled in fresh controversy after she allegedly verbally abused Judicial Officers Association of Lesotho (JOALE) secretary, Masopha Kao, as tensions continue to boil over the JSC’s decision to overlook magistrates for appointment as judges.
Adv Sekoai is said to have called Magistrate Kao on his mobile phone and uttered the Sesotho words “Ke tla o fa ‘M’ao” (loosely be translated to mean “I will give you your mother”. The phrase is considered an extremely vulgar insult among Basotho.
Adv Sekoai is said to have been angered by Magistrate Kao’s comments in the Lesotho Times where he described her as “a mere messenger” who had no authority to act on behalf of the JSC and reject their plea for some of them to be appointed judges.
Magistrate Kao made the remarks in response to Adv Sekoai’s statement that the JSC would not respond to the JOALE’s queries regarding the snubbing of magistrates when the JSC recommended the appointment of five new High Court judges on 20 August 2020.
JOALE president Peete Molapo this week told the Lesotho Times that he has since asked for a meeting with Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase to discuss disciplinary measures to be taken against Adv Sekoai for her “blistering attack on one of us”.
JOALE is a representative association for magistrates and other judicial officers. It does not include judges. Its fight with the JSC started in August this year when it wrote to the JSC questioning why magistrates were overlooked for appointment as judges.
This after Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase and then Attorney General Haae Phoofolo sat on 20 August 2020 in their capacity as members of the JSC and recommended the appointment of five new judges.
The five who were recommended for appointment are Deputy Attorney General Tšebang Putsoane, lawyers Tšabo Matooane, Mokhele Matsau, Moneuoa Kopo and Maliepollo Makhetha. King Letsie III declined to appoint them on the grounds that Justice Mahase and Adv Phoofolo could not just sit on their own and make recommendations on such a “weighty matter” without the input of other JSC members.
Even before the King had rejected the recommendations, Law and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao had already criticised Justice Mahase and Advocate Phoofolo for “meeting in secret” and making the recommendations without consulting him as the responsible minister.
Prof Mahao said the duo did not even constitute a quorum of JSC members.
The JSC comprises of the chief justice, the attorney general, the chairperson of the Public Service Commission and a nominated judge.
The little-known White Horse Party subsequently filed a High Court application for an order compelling King Letsie III to act on Justice Mahase and Adv Phoofolo’s recommendations and appoint the five as judges. Prof Mahao has since filed a counter application to have Justice Mahase and Adv Phoofolo’s recommendations nullified.
JOALE also wrote to Adv Sekoai on 24 August 2020 questioning why magistrates had been overlooked for appointment as judges. The letter was copied to the media and this infuriated Adv Sekoai who subsequently told this publication that the JSC would not even bother responding to the magistrates’ plea because of that.
Magistrate Kao later told this publication that JOALE considered Adv Sekoai to be “a mere messenger” who had no authority to act on behalf of the JSC and reject their plea for some of them to be appointed judges.
According to a magistrate who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, Adv Sekoai was infuriated by Magistrate Kao’s comments and she phoned him and insulted him over the issue.
“After the Lesotho Times published Kao’s comment that Adv Sekoai was just a secretary of JSC and could not make decisions on its behalf, she called Kao and spoke to him in a very impolite manner.
“She angrily told Kao to stop talking about her in newspapers and if he (Kao) has issues with her, he should come and discuss them with her. She said to him, ‘Ke tla o fa ‘M’ao’. Kao did not respond to the attack. He dropped the call and reported her to other JOALE members,” the magistrate said.
Magistrate Kao refused to comment on the matter, saying it was now being handled “by those in authority”.
Magistrate Molapo said JOALE has taken up the matter with Justice Mahase “in order for her to rebuke Adv Sekoai”.
“I personally called the Chief Justice after the matter was reported to me and asked for a meeting for Adv Sekoai for the blistering attack she made on one of us.
“She (Justice Mahase) was welcoming and scheduled a meeting for last week but she had to postpone to attend a funeral.
“We are still expecting the meeting because this is an issue that cannot be left unaddressed. She is yet to give us a new date for the meeting,” Magistrate Molapo said yesterday.