Mohalenyane Phakela | Bereng Mpaki
THE long-awaited northern division of the High Court in Leribe will be officially opened on Monday.
Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro is expected to attend the opening ceremony alongside Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane and other high-ranking government and judicial officials.
The court will start hearing cases on that day, the Register of the High Court and Appeal Court, ‘Mathato Sekoai, has said.
Adv Sekoai said the court, situated at Tšifa-Li-Mali, Leribe, will preside over cases from the Leribe, Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong districts.
Once operational, the court is expected to help reduce the huge backlog of cases said by judicial sources to be more than 4000.
It will also reduce the burden on the main court in Maseru.
“The Northern Division of the High Court situated at Tšifa-Li-Mali in Hlotse, Leribe, will be officially opened on 16 May 2022 through a short ceremony led by the Prime Minister,” Adv Sekoai said in a circular this week.
“Immediately after the opening ceremony, the Chief Justice will lead the first court proceedings. In preparation for the take-off of operations of the court, filing of cases will start on 11 May 2022 (yesterday). Citation of cases at the Northern Division High Court shall be in a manner similar to the one in the main division (Maseru) but end with a forward slash and ND,” Adv Sekoai said.
The Tšifa-Li-Mali Court Complex was constructed in 2013 but it had remained a white elephant due to the shortage of judges, court equipment and furniture, water and electricity.
Its boasts of six courtrooms — four of which are for magistrates while the other two are for the High Court.
It was only in March 2021 when furniture was installed. The Leribe Magistrates’ Court moved to the building in April 2021. The High Court had been expected to start operating in July 2021, but the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had not yet recruited new judges.
It was only in October 2021 when the JSC recommenced the process to recruit new judges. Two out of the seven new judges recruited in March this year- Justices ‘Makampong Mokhoro and Hopolang Nathane- will be based in Leribe.
Yesterday morning, the Lesotho Times crew toured the Tšifa-Li-Mali complex.
The Deputy Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal, Pontšo Phafoli, was on hand to receive them and show then around.
Adv Phafoli said it was all systems go for the court ahead of the official opening on Monday.
“This is our first day at work. We will begin the filing of cases later today. The hearing of cases will start on Monday,” Adv Phafoli said.
Asked whether the two judges would be enough to handle all the cases from the three districts, Adv Phafoli said they would only know when the court is up and running.
“We will observe the rate at which cases are filed when the court is up and running. This will inform us whether there are enough judges or more will be needed,” she said.