‘Justice Majara doesn’t deserve my respect’ – Phoofolo
Infra dignitatum is legal jargon that legal practitioners use when describing a situation where one is involved in or acted in a manner that is below their dignity. For Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo, the phrase would probably be an apt description of the behaviour of suspended Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara who publicly rebuffed his efforts to greet and engage her in conversation at a recent funeral in Maseru.
So infuriated by the snub is Adv Phoofolo that he has vowed that he will “no longer show any respect” to the chief justice after she “stooped low” and acted in manner that was unbecoming of the professional that she is supposed to be.
But Justice Majara remains unfazed and is standing by her decision to snub Adv Phoofolo.
Justice Majara was suspended from her post in September 2018 by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. Dr Thabane also recommended her impeachment over a litany of misconduct charges including her alleged failure to ensure the timeous delivery of justice.
His Majesty King Letsie III, on the advice of Dr Thabane, subsequently appointed High Court judge, Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase, as the acting Chief Justice. King Letsie III also appointed three experienced judges from Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to the tribunal to hear the misconduct charges against Justice Majara.
The three members of the tribunal are Ugandan judge Frederick Egonda-Ntende (who was appointed Seychelles Supreme Court Chief Justice in 2009), Tanzanian judge Augustino Ramadhoni (who was elected to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights in 2010) and Zimbabwe’s former Minister of Justice and High Court Judge Simbi Mubako.
To date the tribunal has not sat to decide the suspended chief justice’s fate amid revelations that government and Justice Majara agreed on an M9 million exit package for the top judge.
At the time of her suspension, Adv Phoofolo insisted the government had acted above board and stood ready to defend its decision before the courts of law.
However, as the Saturday snub at the funeral of one ’Matiisetso Mpobole in Maseru West suggests, there is no love lost between the two senior members of the judiciary.
Narrating his version of events to the Lesotho Times this week, Adv Phoofolo said he approached Justice Majara and attempted to shake hands only for the judge to shun him by turning her back on him.
“I was with the Registrar (of the High Court) Mr Lesitsi Mokeke who pointed to where Mme Nthomeng was standing with her two bodyguards. As we walked towards her she started shouting at the top of her voice and creating a scene. She said Mr Mokeke should not be showing and directing people to where she was.
“She shook herself off from me, making it evident that she didn’t want any contact with me at all. In her bid to get away from me she would have fallen to the ground had it not been for her two bodyguards who saved her.”
Adv Phoofolo criticised Justice Majara’s conduct, saying she had stooped so low for someone in her position. He said she was only on suspension and remained chief justice as she had not yet bbeen fired from her position.
Adv Phoofolo said he expected Justice Majara to draw the line between personal and professional issues, adding he did not expect such lack of civility all because of the decision (suspension) taken against her in her professional and not personal capacity.
The attorney general also wondered how the chief justice would behave towards Dr Thabane or how she would work with him in the event that she was restored to her position.
“She stooped very low because I didn’t expect her to act that way as a professional. I respected her and never thought she could fail to draw the line between her personal and professional life. Naturally I felt very bad and I wasn’t happy about it because I only wanted to exchange greetings with her because I still consider her my boss. Whatever I did, I did in my official capacity but I have since realised that she doesn’t deserve my respect.
“I don’t even know why she did that, but it is something that she will live to regret if she respects herself enough. I felt ashamed but I think she was even more ashamed because afterwards all eyes were on her. She created such a scene.
“I just wonder how she is going to behave when she meets the Prime Minister as he is the one who initiated her suspension. To me she is still the chief justice and it’s just that she is on suspension. None of us knows what could happen tomorrow and how it’s going to affect our working relation if by some chance she is reinstated.
“I have made a decision that Chief Justice Majara doesn’t deserve my respect in any way and I will surely reserve it for people who respect me,” AG Phoofolo concluded.
On her part, Justice Majara has no regrets about the incident. She told the Lesotho Times she had indeed snubbed Adv Phoofolo.
“Yes I looked the other way when he (Adv Phoofolo) tried to shake hands with me. I did that because I felt that he would get the message loud and clear that I did not want anything to do with him. I had my own valid reasons why I did so but with all due respect, I choose not to divulge them to you.
“It is not true that I nearly fell and was saved by my bodyguards. I was not angry at all and had no reason to be. It is however, true that I told Ntate Mokeke to stop calling people to me. He (Adv Phoofolo) and I did not even exchange a single word and I didn’t even get to see his face.
“If at all he feels that he will no longer treat me with respect because I refused to shake hands with him, then it’s all good and fine with me. I have nothing to lose and I can live with that,” Justice Majara said, adding she was alive to the ‘fact’ that people were always ready to judge her and she was always put in the limelight for the wrong reasons.