OPPOSITION parties have dismissed last Saturday’s protest march demanding Justice Kananelo Mosito’s swearing-in as Court of Appeal president saying it is a political ploy to meddle in the judiciary.
The protesters, who included legal practitioners and ordinary Basotho, demanded Justice Mosito’s swearing-in as the top judge “with immediate effect”.
The petitioners also gave Prime Minister Thomas 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”.
The petition was handed over to Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights Minister, Lebohang Hlaele, who said Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara either had to resign or face an impeachment tribunal for corruption over a controversial M27 000 per month rental deal.
Democratic Congress chairperson, Motlalentoa Letsosa, told the Lesotho Times in an interview this week that the independence of the judiciary was under “serious attack” by the government.
Mr Letsosa, who was Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights minister in the Pakalitha Mosisili-led previous government, said the judiciary needed to reflect the ethos of “incorruptibility, fairness, rule of law and independence”.
“The judiciary is under attack and it is very disheartening to hear a whole minister making such sick utterances about the judiciary,” he said.
“The judiciary has been robbed of its independence and the only thing that it has to do is to stand against such talk in order to protect its integrity.”
Mr Letsosa added: “A judge is not appointed based on political affiliation. That protest march held on Saturday was a political move to meddle in the judiciary.
“Politics and the judiciary don’t go hand in hand at all. This is a smear campaign against the judiciary. The minister has clearly declared war against the judiciary.”
Lesotho Congress for Democracy spokesperson Teboho Sekata echoed the sentiment saying Mr Hlaele’s remarks “prove that the government has lost the plot”.
“This means they have now robbed the courts of their autonomy. This is one of the gravest mistakes they have made and we know that they already have someone tipped for that position,” he said.
Popular Front for Democracy leader, Lekhetho Rakuoane, supported the view, saying: “The government has crossed a red line. The judiciary may become compromised and won’t be in a position to dispense justice without fear or favour because they will be operating under duress.”
For his part, National Independent Party leader, Kimetso Mathaba, chimed in saying: “It is quite astonishing to hear a whole minister labelling members of the judiciary as politicians. In our time as the government, we always wanted to believe that the courts of law were independent.”