Home Comment Independence of the judiciary is sacrosanct

Independence of the judiciary is sacrosanct

by Lesotho Times

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili last week lashed out at the judiciary accusing it of bias in its judgments involving the government.

Mosisili was particularly miffed by judgments delivered by the Ombudsman which he said were patently in favour of government opponents.

He said the courts often sympathise with individuals taking the government to court.

The prime minister’s display of annoyance with court and the Ombudsman’s judgments is a surprise to us.

We however hope that his exasperation with the judgments remains at the level of annoyance and will not develop into open conflict with the judiciary.

Where such conflicts have taken place elsewhere, particularly in countries north of the Limpopo, they have proved to be quite costly to the democratisation agenda.

Such fights have succeeded in derailing the people’s march to greater freedom and prosperity. They have had devastating consequences for the rule of law and democracy.

It is in our interest therefore that the executive and the judiciary as well as the third arm of governance, the legislature, learn to live together with one respecting the independence of the other.

Too often we have seen that when such trust is broken the executive often resorts to purging the bench of judges who are deemed anti-establishment.

Such regimes replace independent-minded judges with compliant ones.

It is democracy that suffers.

Such judges will be at the beck and call of dictatorial regimes, as they pass judgments that are pro-government even in the dead of night.

The result is that the people’s confidence in the judiciary will be eroded.

Lesotho does not need such conflict especially when our democracy is still in its nascent phase.

The independence of judges and the Ombudsman is sacrosanct.

There must never be a time when the executive is seen to be undermining the court system.

It is understandable then for the Law Society of Lesotho to sound the alarm bells as it did last week when it pronounced its disappointment with Mosisili’s statement in parliament.

“The head of state is obliged to be seen conducting himself in a way that will help to maintain the dignity of the courts,” Zwelakhe Mda, the Law Society president said.

It is a credit to our judiciary that it has sought to defend its reputation as a fiercely independent institution.

It must maintain that stance if the people are to have confidence in its judgments.

A fiercely independent judiciary is a key pillar of a sound democracy.

That crucial sector must not be undermined.

This is why the Lesotho Times has been at the forefront in highlighting the plight of judges in Lesotho.

This is why we have called for an overhaul of judges’ packages and an improvement in their conditions of service.

We expect judges to get fair remuneration that is in line with what their counterparts in the region are earning.

We also think the judiciary must not be starved of resources.

It is embarrassing for court cases to fail to take place simply because there is no stationery.

The courts must not go with a begging bowl to private individuals and companies asking for donations.

We believe in the independence of the courts to ensure they are

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