Chief Justice sues Thabane
EMBATTLED Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara yesterday filed an urgent application before the High Court for an order to interdict Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane from recommending her suspension from office over a plethora of misconduct allegations.
The chief justice also petitioned the court to interdict Dr Thabane from advising His Majesty, King Letsie III to appoint a tribunal to recommend whether or not she should be impeached over the same allegations.
As first reported in the Lesotho Times and its sister Sunday Express publication, Dr Thabane wrote to Justice Majara requesting her to ‘show cause’ why she should not be impeached.
A copy of the letter dated 27 April 2018 requests Justice Majara to make representations showing why she should not be removed from office on the basis of eight counts of misconduct which include the alleged failure to preside over cases for two years. She is accused of playing a relatively limited judicial role despite the huge backlog of cases at the High Court.
Another charge pertains to Justice Majara’s controversial deal to rent a house for M27 000 per month from a colleague Justice Teboho Moiloa. The amount is way above the M4000 statutory allocation for her housing allowance.
“Notwithstanding your obligation as the administrative head of the high court and in your capacity as the chairman of the judicial service commission, you have been indifferent to the allegations of your misconduct over the leasing of your official residential home from your puisne judge,” Dr Thabane wrote to Justice Majara.
“You have not facilitated an inquiry into the matter hitherto, thereby compromising the integrity of the judicial service commission by failing to recuse yourself from the JSC and allowing for the inquiry over allegations of misconduct on your part and or that of the puisne judge whose house you rented.
“I therefore do hereby, respectively afford Your Ladyship this opportunity to make representations concerning the foregoing state of affairs and why I should not represent to the King that the question of removing the Chief Justice ought to be investigated on the basis of the foregoing allegations as well as the suspension of the Chief Justice pending finalisation of the investigations.”
However, Justice Majara launched her fightback yesterday, with a court application seeking to interdict Dr Thabane from acting against her.
Among other things, Justice Majara petitioned the court to “interdict and prevent the respondents from taking any or whatever measures against the applicant (Justice Majara) in accordance with the constitution pending finalisation of these proceedings”.
Dr Thabane, the Minister of Law, Lebohang Hlaele and the Attorney General, Haae Phoofolo are cited as first to third respondents respectively.
Justice Majara also asked the court to order that “the first respondent (Dr Thabane), is also prevented and interdicted from recommending to His Majesty the suspension of the applicant in terms of section 121 (7) of the Constitution pending finalisation of these proceedings”.
The chief justice is also seeking that Dr Thabane be “prevented and interdicted from recommending His Majesty the King the appointment of the Tribunal contemplated in section 121 (5) of the Constitution pending finalisation of these proceedings”.
In terms of the final relief, Justice Majara wants that the court to order that “the government under the supervision of the first respondent has contravened the constitution by requiring and/or demanding the resignation of the applicant as Chief Justice of the Kingdom of Lesotho”.
In her supporting affidavit, Justice Majara said she had been left with no choice but to seek legal relief “after all my efforts to resolve this matter amicably proved futile”.
She suggested that Dr Thabane only penned the ‘show cause’ letter and decided on the legal route of advising His Majesty to suspend her and appoint a tribunal after his unlawful attempts to remove her through coercion failed.
“In all circumstances the first respondent is using the constitutional procedures and processes to achieve indirectly my removal from office which he had unlawfully started negotiating and when it failed he is abusing the powers set out in the constitution to seek to achieve the same result.
“I verily aver that the use of powers of the constitution is irrational, unreasonable and unlawful in all the circumstances. It is clearly tainted by bad faith.”
Justice Majara alleges that the unlawful attempts to remove her from office included threats from some cabinet ministers, principal secretaries and public demonstrations by some individuals who styled themselves as the ‘Hands off Mosito’ campaigners.
The Hands off Mosito campaigners describe themselves as a “team of patriotic Basotho men and women who are increasingly irked by the deliberate delayed swearing in of Judge Kananelo Mosito as President of Court of Appeal after his appointment by a government gazette in terms of Section (98) sub section (1) of the constitution”.
Last month they wrote to Dr Thabane imploring him to immediately dismiss Justice Majara and three senior High Court judges for allegedly plotting with the opposition to topple the government.
In her court papers, Justice Majara says her troubles with the government started in November 2017 when she was approached by the former Minister of Justice, Mahali Phamotse who requested her to resign because the government did not want to work with her.
“During our discussions, I informed her (Dr Phamotse) that the government did not have to like me. All that was required was for me to discharge my constitutional mandate and comply with other laws of the country. My service was not at the pleasure of any politician of whatever political orientation,” Justice Majara states.
The chief justice further states that she eventually agreed to negotiate her exit after Dr Phamotse’s threats that she would never win any fight with the government as they would “do everything in their power to make life difficult for me and by the time they are done with me I would be finished and no one would even want to touch me professionally”.
She said she was under “tremendous duress” because the Minister of Water, Samonyane Ntsekele and the Ministry of Justice principal secretary, Lebogang Mochaba allegedly joined Dr Phamotse in pushing her to resign. The trio allegedly threatened that she would not receive her terminal benefits if she waited to be pushed out.
Justice Majara also took a swipe against Mr Hlaele for publicly attacking her in December 2017 and demanding that she either resign or be “impeached for corruption”.
“I aver that the statements (by Mr Hlaele) constitute an onslaught on the judiciary. They are…irresponsible…and constitute a virulent and unjustified attack, which is unprecedented in this country.
“The said minister was not only personal with me as chief justice but was very low, unfair and lacking in civility towards an official that he knew would not publicly defend herself,” Justice Majara states.
Mr Hlaele had alleged that the Chief Justice was “corrupt” and gave her an ultimatum to either resign or face an impeachment tribunal. The minister charged that Justice Majara should be impeached for “corruptly” renting a house for M27 000 per month from a colleague Justice Teboho Moiloa, a figure “way above” the statutory allocation for her housing allowance.
Mr Hlaele made the remarks soon after receiving a petition from the Hands off Mosito who had staged a protest to demand the swearing-in of Justice Kananelo Mosito as the Court of Appeal President.
Justice Majara is represented by Mei & Mei attorneys and the matter will be argued on 16 May 2018.