I was forced into exit talks: Justice Majara

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Mohalenyane Phakela / Nat Molomo

SUSPENDED Chief Justice, Nthomeng Majara, says she was forced into negotiations with the government which was bent on removing her from her position in 2017.

Justice Majara makes the allegations in her affidavit which is attached to the court papers of former Defence minister, Tšeliso Mokhosi, former army former army commander Tlali Kamoli and 14 other former members of different security agencies who have launched an urgent High Court application for the reversal of the appointment of foreign judges to handle their criminal cases.

The first of the five foreign judges to try cases involving politicians and members of the security agencies, Zimbabwe’s Justice Charles Hungwe, is already in the country.

Justice Hungwe was sworn-in at the High Court on 15 January 2019 and on that same day, he got down to work, setting dates for the various criminal cases which will begin when the other foreign judges jet into the country before the end of this month.

But ahead of the arrival of the remaining foreign judges and the commencement of the trials, Mr Mokhosi, Lieutenant General Kamoli and 14 others filed their court application on 15 February 2019.

The other 14 applicants are Thabo Tšukulu, Mothibeli Mofolo, Mabitle Matona, Rapele Mphaki, Pitso Ramoepana, Lekhooa Moepi, Mahlele Moeletsi, Mahlomola Makhoali, Nthatakane Motanyane, Motšoane Machai, Liphapang Sefako, Nemase Faso, Tieho Tikiso and Litekanyo Nyakane.

They want the appointment of the foreign judges by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to be nullified on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

In terms of the interim relief, they want Justice Hungwe and the other foreign judges to be interdicted and prevented from commencing criminal proceedings until the finalisation of their main court application.

Justice Majara submitted an affidavit to accompany the application against the foreign judges.

She states that the government was angered by her opposition to what she saw as the unconstitutional imposition of the foreign judges.

“I have gone on record telling them (government) that they do not have the powers to appoint foreign judges as the repository of such powers is the Judicial Service Commission,” Justice Majara states.

She further accuses several senior government officials of threatening to make her life miserable if she refused to vacate the post of chief justice and thereafter, she entered into negotiations for exit under duress.

“I confirm that sometime in November 2017 I was approached by the former Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Dr Mahali Phamotse, who requested me to resign because the government did not want to work with me any longer,” Justice Majara said.

“During our discussions I informed her 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. It was not only Dr Phamotse who threatened me and told me to negotiate my way out of office but the Minister of Water, Samonyane Ntsekele, as well.

“Following the threats that I would not win the fight with the government as they would do everything possible 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. I felt under extreme pressure particularly because they always made it clear that if I did not vacate office I would be removed and possibly lose out on my terminal benefits. I was under tremendous duress.”

Justice Majara further stated that former Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Lebohang Hlaele, further made public statements that she should resign or be involuntarily be removed, another sign that the government forced her to resign.

“On 9 December 2017, the (then) Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Lebohang Hlaele, made a public statement in which he accused me and threatened that I must resign or face impeachment. He addressed a group of marchers who described themselves as ‘Hands of Mosito Campaigners’. The cause of his call to me to resign was that I had refused to swear in Dr Kananelo Mosito.

“Mr Hlaele first accused the (High Court) judges of having a vested interest in ensuring that the President of the Court of Appeal was not sworn in because they connived with the opposition parties. He accused them of failing to deliver justice and swindling the nation. Secondly, he charged that that in my capacity as the Chief Justice I compelled a junior to sign a sub-lease agreement concerning my accommodation facilities whose cost far exceed the housing allowance to which I am entitled.

“He indicated that if I do not resign, I would have to be put before a tribunal and that I could be punished brutally by that tribunal. The reason he gave was that I am guilty of stealing public funds. He indicated that they would be meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions so that they could ensure that my prosecution would be expedited.”

However, the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, the government ministers named by Justice Majara in her affidavit have aid that the chief justice voluntarily initiated the talks about her exit and even demanded a whooping M17 million golden handshake.

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