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Chief Justices appeal to govt

by Lesotho Times

Pascalinah Kabi

THE Southern African Chief Justices’ Forum (SACJF) has called on the government to uphold the independence of the judiciary.

The SACJF also appealed to the government to give Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara a fair hearing as well as allow her legal representation of her choice in the event that she is hauled before a tribunal over misconduct charges.

The SACJF said this in the aftermath of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s letter to Justice Majara requesting her to ‘show cause’ why she should not be suspended and impeached over a litany of misconduct allegations.

Justice Majara stands accused of bringing the judiciary into disrepute by failing to preside over cases for two years. She also stands accused of renting a house from a colleague for M27 000 per month. That amount is reportedly way above the M4000 housing allowance that she is entitled to as chief justice.

SACJF chairperson, Peter Shivute, this week urged the government to ensure that the Justice Majara’s case is handled in accordance with the principles of natural justice and due process.

“The matter needs to be handled in accordance with the law and in a way that preserves the independence, integrity and dignity of the courts and one that reinforces rather than undermines the principles of separation of powers and the rule of law,” Justice Shivute said. Justice Shivute who is also the chief justice of Namibia, said that SACJF was ready to mediate between the government and Justice Majara.

Meanwhile, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has bemoaned the slow pace of judicial reforms, saying this had a negative effect on the administration of justice in Lesotho.

A five member ICJ delegation is currently in the country to engage stakeholders on the issues of judicial independence and the strengthening of the rule of law.

An analysis of the constitutional and legal framework on the selection, appointment and tenure of judges is part of their enquiry. They aim to measure whether these conform to the international obligations of Lesotho in terms of the international human rights instruments that it is party to.

The mission is in collaboration with the Africa Judges and Jurists Forum (AJIF). It comprises of Retired Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman of Tanzania, Retired Chief Justice Ernest Sakala of Zambia, Martin Masiga the Secretary General of the AJJF and Mary da Silva of the ICJ and ICJ African Director, Arnold Tsunga.

Speaking to the Lesotho Times yesterday, Mr Tsunga criticised the slow pace of the envisaged judicial reforms.

Mr Tsunga said they previously visited Lesotho and made recommendations which have not been implemented to date.

“Not even one recommendation has been implemented so far. We get a sense that the recommendations have been accepted but have never been implemented because of a parliamentary process that will entail changing aspects of the constitution,” Mr Tsunga said.

“Reforms are critical in addressing ongoing problems within the judiciary and we are going to make recommendations after the mission. The leadership must realise that reforming the judiciary is of a national rather than of political party interests.

“It is hoped that the report arising from this mission will help the authorities and duty bearers in Lesotho to build a strong and independent judiciary in accordance with articles 7 and 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which protect the right to a fair hearing and guarantee the independence of the courts,” he said.

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