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Govt wants chief justice out

by Lesotho Times
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  • Justice Majara accused of corruption, political bias
  • High Court acting registrar also under fire over Justice Mosito

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE government has told Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara to either resign or face an impeachment tribunal for alleged corruption over her controversial M27 000 per month house rental deal.

So out of favour is Justice Majara that the government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has now branded her an “incompetent” who stood no chance in her bid to represent Lesotho at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The pique towards Justice Majara by the government and its supporters was laid bare last Saturday during a protest march in Maseru by scores of Basotho demanding the swearing-in of Justice Kananelo Mosito as Court of Appeal president.

Justice Mosito was re-appointed as Court of Appeal president by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 1 August 2017, almost a year after he had been forced to resign to avoid impeachment over tax evasion charges by the  then Pakalitha Mosisili led  coalition government.

Two weeks after his reappointment, four lawyers lodged a High Court application challenging the validity of his appointment.

The four, Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, King’s Counsel Karabo Mohau, Motiea Teele and Zwelakhe Mda argue in their constitutional application that Dr Thabane did not follow due process when he advised His Majesty to re-appoint Justice Mosito.  They essentially allege that Judge Mosito is unfit to head the top court. Judgment on the case will be made next February

The protesters, who included legal practitioners and ordinary Basotho, delivered their petition to Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights Minister Lebohang Hlaele and other senior government officials.

In the petition, they accuse Justice Majara of collaborating with the four lawyers in efforts to frustrate Justice Mosito’s swearing-in.

They argue that the four lawyers had not applied for an interim order to stay the swearing-in, yet Justice Majara went on to advise Prime Minister Thomas Thabane against the swearing in.

Justice Majara is “hell bent in granting stay through the back door to the four lawyers who did not even ask for it”, the petitioners charged.

They also claim that she is part of a team that includes outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions Leaba Thetsane, former attorney-general Tšokolo Makhethe and “some” High court judges which wants to “capture the entire judiciary for their personal and political battles”.

The petitioners gave Dr Thabane seven days, from last Saturday, to order Justice Majara to swear-in Justice Mosito “failing which she must be suspended pending impeachment proceedings against her”.

Mr Hlaele pulled no punches when addressing the protestors, saying Justice Majara either had to resign or face an impeachment tribunal for corruption over a controversial M27 000 per month rental deal.

Justice Majara has come under criticism for moving into a house belonging to Justice Teboho Moiloa, rented to her by her fellow High Court judge.

The High Court has been accused of flouting procurement regulations and conflict of interest regulations since the house belongs to the chief justice’s colleague.

Since the chief justice is entitled to only M4 000 housing allowance, the M27 000 being paid for the house is almost seven times more than her legally allowable limit.

An audit report on the judiciary by the Ministry of Finance’s internal audit division has recommended a review of Justice Majara’s rental deal.

The report directed the High Court Registrar, who is its chief accounting officer, to get the equivalent monthly reimbursement of M23 000 that was being paid on the house by the judiciary from Justice Majara.

However, it remains unclear if this has been done.

In addition to the audit report, Justice Majara has also been accused of appointing Justice Moiloa to act in her position when she was away on several occasions, even though there were other more senior judges.

“The only advice that I have for her is to go,” said Mr Hlaele.

“She should resign. Otherwise, she will be put before a tribunal to face harsh punishment for stealing people’s money. It is a punishment befitting her actions because she has called it upon herself.”

The minister said when Justice Majara approached the government seeking support for her bid to represent Lesotho at the ICC, they played along even though they knew “she had no chance”.

Located in The Hague, Netherlands, the ICC is the court of last resort for the prosecution of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It was founded on an international treaty, the Rome Statute, which came into effect on 1 July 2002.

“When she approached us, we looked at one another and supported her bid halfheartedly because we knew we had nothing to lose,” he said.

“We already knew that she would not make it because she is very incompetent. Her mind is more focused on corruption than serving the people.”

Mr Hlaele added: “She only got 37 points and the winning candidate got all 88 points because she was not up to scratch. This was God’s response to the hurts and pains she has caused to the people.”

The minister also took aim at High Court Acting Registrar Lesitsi Mokeke for “sabotaging” Justice Mosito’s swearing-in by lobbying judges against it.

“We have heard that Mokeke was having sleepless nights running around lobbying judges not to support the swearing-in of Professor Mosito. I just wonder what lies he was telling his wife for not sleeping at home. The good thing about him is that he is merely acting,” Mr Hlaele added.

The ministry’s Principal Secretary, ’Mole Khumalo, yesterday told this publication that they were yet to make a move against Justice Majara.

Efforts to contact Justice Majara this week were fruitless.

For his part, Mr Mokeke said he was out of the country and could not comment.

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