THE High Court will begin virtual hearings when it opens for its second session of the year on Monday. The move is meant to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections which have surged over the past few weeks.
In her 27 July 2021 circular, High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar, ‘Mathato Sekoai, said the virtual hearings and digitalisation of court proceedings are in line with the Superior Courts Practice Direction of 2021.
“In an effort to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chief Justice (Sakoane Sakoane) issued the Superior Courts Practice Direction of 2021 which introduced amongst others, the e-filing and virtual hearing of cases,” Adv Sekoai states.
“Pursuant to the said direction, kindly take notice that with effect from Monday 2 August 2021, the following proceedings will be conducted virtually: remands and all motion proceedings (applications).
“In action proceedings where evidence is going to be led, the provisions of section 6(3)(d) of the Superior Courts Practice Direction of 2021 (for normal physical sittings) shall be invoked in the event of the matter not being capable of being heard virtually. The registrar shall provide the links through which such matters will be heard to the parties,” Adv Sekoai further states.
The Court of Appeal was the first to introduce the virtual sittings last May with its judges from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia hearing matters online from their own countries.
Lawyers would either argue matters from their respective chambers or from the apex court premises in Maseru. So far, the Court of Appeal has held three successful virtual sessions.
In another development, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, has closed her office after a staff member contracted Covid-19. The office will reopen on Monday.
“It is with great regret that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions informs all the stakeholders that we have a confirmed case of Covid-19,” DPP Motinyane states in a 27 July 2021 circular.
“The (infected) colleague is in our registry office. Our offices will be temporarily closed until 2 August 2021. All bail reviews and other urgent matters will be served and received on 30 July 2021.
“In the meantime, management will consult the National Covid-19 Secretariat about the situation. Members of staff have been advised to observe the health regulations to minimise the spread of Covid-19,” DPP Motinyane further states.
Last week, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro imposed a stricter nationwide lockdown amid indications that the country is now battling three highly contagious variants of the Covid-19 virus.
These are the South African variant, Delta variant and the United Kingdom mutation of the Lambda variant first identified in Peru last August.
Of these, the Delta variant is the most virulent with reports saying it is responsible for 83 percent of Covid-19 cases in the United States (US).
The US is the world leader in Covid-19 cases with a cumulative 35 355 430 infections and 627 370 deaths having been recorded by yesterday.
India, the country where the Delta variant was first identified, is not far behind with a cumulative 31 490 153 infections and 422 175 deaths by yesterday.
All three variants have now been identified in Lesotho, Dr Majoro said.
Speaking on national television to announce a stricter lockdown last week, Dr Majoro said the country’s positivity rate had shot up and more than 300 positive infections were now being recorded per week.
As of yesterday, Lesotho had recorded a cumulative 12 887 infections and 363 deaths.