By Billy Ntaote
MASERU — Acting Chief Justice, Tšeliso Monaphathi, fired warning shots against errant lawyers this week when he called for the arrest of an advocate accused of causing the disappearance of a file from the High Court Civil Registry.
The file involves a case pitting the management of Maluti Adventist College and the institution’s students over payment of stipends.
Reliable said Justice Monaphathi fumed on Tuesday when he learnt that Advocate Christopher Lephuthing had allegedly disappeared with a court file — CVI/APN/05/2014 — under the pretext that he was going to the Acting Chief Justice’s own chambers to ask to have the case reallocated to another judge.
Sources said Lephuthing had nevertheless not gone to the Acting Chief Justice’s chambers with the file as he had allegedly indicated when he retrieved it from the registry office.
The enraged Justice Monaphathi, according to sources, had gone as far as calling a police station to arrest Lephuthing.
Lephuthing’s actual arrest had only been averted when he was summoned and rushed to appear before the judge to present his of the story.
Lephuthing is representing Maluti Adventist College and Maluti Adventist Hospital, first and second applicants respectively, in a civil application against Maluti Adventist College students and their Students Representative Council (SRC), who are cited as first respondents.
The students and their council are represented by Advocate Shale Shale.
The lawsuit came after the college locked students out on January 5, 2014 for allegedly violating school regulations after the college’s closure by management on November 21, 2013 over disputes about the amount of the stipend paid to students working at the hospital.
The students had complained that management had unilaterally reduced their stipend amount.
Sources said Justice Monaphathi called Lephuthing to inquire about his whereabouts and the missing file but the lawyer responded by saying that he was attending to another matter in the Butha-Buthe.
At that point Justice Monaphathi furiously told Lephuthing to report to the High Court accompanied by a trusted lawyer who would plead with the court to grant him bail.
Sources close to the matter told the Lesotho Times that the enraged Justice Monaphathi ended up calling the Pitso Ground Police Station to arrest and take Lephuthing to the High Court.
Shale, who had on January 14 appeared before acting Judge Molefi Makara together with Lephuthing over the civil application of the Maluti Adventist College against its students, has since filed an affidavit explaining the events surrounding the disappearance of the file, allegedly at Lephuthing’s behest, from the civil registry of the High Court.
Shale said, in the affidavit filed this week that he appeared with Lephuthing before Justice Makara.
Shale said Justice Makara, in agreement with both lawyers, had ordered that the applicants file their answering affidavit by Friday January 17, 2014 and the matter between the college and its students be argued on January 20, 2014.
He said in the affidavit he was not served with the answering papers as ordered by the court but he prepared his heads of argument and went to court on January 20 2014 as had been agreed.
“Upon arrival at the court premises, I met Advocate Lephuthing next to the Court of Appeal coming from the direction of the High Court.
“Upon seeing me he told me that he had sent the matter for reallocation since he was aware that Judge Makara had already decided the matter even before we could address him,” Shale said.
Shale said he indicated to Lephuthing that they should both appear before the judge so that he could apply for Justice Makara’s recusal.
He said Lephuthing said he would be with him in a short while and they parted ways.
Shale said he proceeded to the Civil Registry to file his heads of argument in the matter but upon arrival he was informed by ‘Manthapo Phakoe, a clerk in the registry, that Lephuthing had taken the file to Monaphathi’s chambers for reallocation.
“I immediately proceeded to the chambers (Justice Monaphathi’s chambers) but I was told by Assistant Registrar Mr Sharite that he was never handed the file by Advocate Lephuthing or anybody at all,” he said.
Shale said he went back to the registry and demanded that a search be made for the file since the case was due to proceed that day. A thorough search was then undertaken to no avail.
He said it was at that juncture that he sought assistance of Sharite regarding the mysterious disappearance of the file on the date of hearing.
Shale said Sharite did everything, including phoning Lephuthing, to assist him but his efforts were fruitless.
“In their telephone conversation (with Sharite) Advocate Lephuthing promised to come to court to sort out the issue but he never showed up,” Shale said.
Shale said after realising Lephuthing was pulling wool over the Assistant Registrar’s eyes, he asked Registrar Lesitsi Mokeke to intervene.
However, Mokeke was not readily available. Shale said he then sought Justice Monaphathi’s direct intervention.
“His Lordship indeed intervened and phoned Advocate Lephuthing, who after several attempts eventually answered his mobile phone. He told his Lordship in my presence that he had gone to Butha-Buthe to attend to some consultation with a client,” Shale said.
He said Lephuthing said he would only be able to appear before court on Tuesday this week.
Shale said on Tuesday, he once again proceeded to the court as agreed with Lephuthing and as ordered by Justice Monaphathi but there was no sign of Lephuthing until the court commenced business.
“I once again checked the civil registry to inquire whether the file had not been retrieved but I was informed that the file was still not there. It is for this reason that I prayed the honourable court to allow me to prepare a dummy file for the matter to be heard as there was an interim court order obtained exparte (from one party) which is highly prejudicial to the respondents,” Shale said in the affidavit.
Shale said he is making the affidavit so as to set the record straight regarding the events of January 20 and 21 in connection with file in CIV/APN/05/2014.
Shale’s affidavit on the missing file is supported by the Clerk of the High Court ‘Manthapo Phakoe. Phakoe’s affidavit explicitly said Lephuting had indeed disappeared with the file number CIV/APN/05/2014 for the Maluti Adventist College case.
Contacted for his side of the story, Lephuthing said he could not comment on the matter as he is yet to take it up with all the parties involved.
Pressed to at least give a background of what had transpired, Lephuthing then said he was attending a hearing in the Butha- Buthe Magistrate Court and would need more time to clarify the matter.
On his part, Mokeke confirmed yesterday that the Chief Justice was informed about the disappearance of the file in the High Court Civil Registry.
Mokeke said he had been told that Lephuthing was working on the file and he had indeed taken it away from the registry.
Mokeke, the High Court registrar, also confirmed receiving a report that Acting Chief Justice Monaphathi had indeed phoned Lephuthing to tell him he should report to court and bring with him a lawyer who would seek bail on his behalf, implying that the irate Chief Justice wanted Lephuthing arrested.
Mokeke said he had also been informed that Lephuthing had indeed reported to court and appeared before Justice Monaphathi to resolve the matter.
Monaphathi had then dropped his bid to have Lephuthing arrested after the lawyer’s rush to court.
Mokeke said Justice Monaphathi’s court then advised that Maluti Adventist College and Hospital should engage a new lawyer.
The file is still not at the civil registry and Lephuthing was still being blamed for its disappearance, instead a dummy file has since been created.
MASERU — Acting Chief Justice,Tšeliso Monaphathi, firedwarning shotsagainst errantlawyersthisweek when he called for the arrest of an advocateaccused of causing the disappearanceof a file from the High Court Civil Registry.The file involves a case pitting the managementof Maluti Adventist College and the institution’sstudents over payment of stipends.Reliable said Justice Monaphathi fumedon Tuesday when he learnt that AdvocateChristopher Lephuthing had allegedly disappearedwith a court file — CVI/APN/05/2014— under the pretext that he was going to theActing Chief Justice’s own chambers to askto have the case reallocated to another judge.Sources said Lephuthing had neverthelessnot gone to the Acting Chief Justice’s chamberswith the file as he had allegedly indicatedwhen he retrieved it from the registryoffice.The enraged Justice Monaphathi, accordingto sources, had gone as far as calling apolice station to arrest Lephuthing.Lephuthing’s actual arrest had only beenaverted when he was summoned and rushedto appear before the judge to present his ofthe story.Lephuthing is representing MalutiAdventist College and Maluti AdventistHospital, first and second applicants respectively,in a civil application againstMaluti Adventist College students andtheir Students Representative Council(SRC), who are cited as first respondents.The students and their council are representedby Advocate Shale Shale.The lawsuit came after the college lockedstudents out on January 5, 2014 for allegedlyviolating school regulations after thecollege’s closure by management on November21, 2013 over disputes about theamount of the stipend paid to studentsworking at the hospital.The students had complained that managementhad unilaterally reduced their stipendamount.Sources said Justice Monaphathi calledLephuthing to inquire about his whereaboutsand the missing file but the lawyerresponded by saying that he was attendingto another matter in the Butha-Buthe.At that point Justice Monaphathi furiouslytold Lephuthing to report to the HighCourt accompanied by a trusted lawyerwho would plead with the court to granthim bail.Sources close to the matter told the LesothoTimes that the enraged Justice Monaphathiended up calling the Pitso GroundPolice Station to arrest and take Lephuthingto the High Court.Shale, who had on January 14 appearedbefore acting Judge Molefi Makara togetherwith Lephuthing over the civil applicationof the Maluti Adventist Collegeagainst its students, has since filed an affidavitexplaining the events surroundingthe disappearance of the file, allegedly atLephuthing’s behest, from the civil registryof the High Court.Shale said, in the affidavit filed thisweek that he appeared with Lephuthingbefore Justice Makara.