THE Law Society of Lesotho has turned down a request by four prominent lawyers for it to take legal action against the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Lebohang Hlaele, for allegedly verbally attacking Chief Justice, Nthomeng Majara, in December 2017.
The four lawyers – King’s Counsel Motiea Teele, Zwelakhe Mda, Karabo Mohau and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika – on 2 January 2018, wrote a letter to the law society demanding the council of the society to take legal action against Mr Hlaele for what they referred to as harassment of the Chief Justice by the executive.
They allege Mr Hlaele attacked the chief justice when he addressed scores of Basotho who had staged a protest march to demand the swearing-in of Justice Kananelo Mosito as Court of Appeal President on 9 December 2017.
Addressing the protestors, Mr Hlaele took a swipe at Chief Justice Majara saying she had to either Justice Majara had to resign or face an impeachment tribunal for corruption over a controversial M27 000 per month rental deal.
“The only advice that I have for her is to go,” Mr Hlaele said.
“She should resign. Otherwise, she will be put before a tribunal to face harsh punishment for stealing people’s money. It is a punishment befitting her actions because she has called it upon herself.”
Mr Hlaele’s statements did not go down well with the four lawyers who subsequently wrote to the Law Society, saying among other things, that, “It is unprecedented, in this country, for a minister of government to single-out a judge for such virulent attack as that recently mounted by the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs against the Chief Justice”.
“The minister has not only been very personal with the Chief Justice, but has been very low, unfair, cheap and lacking in civility in that, he knows very well that he is insulting an official who, by virtue of her office, cannot go on public media to defend herself.
“What is sad is that many uninformed members of the public will be misled into thinking that the Chief Justice’s silence means she has nothing to say in her defence.
“It is against this background that we call upon the Law Society Council to take the necessary legal action in defence of the judiciary,” part of the quartet’s letter states.
But the law society gave a brief reply to the letter by four top lawyers through its letter dated 16 January 2018.
The brief and dismissive letter by the law society reads: “You will hopefully agree that these are serious conclusions you make against the minister.
“We note, however, your letter does not give any factual background to support these serious conclusions. In particular, you have not given us details of the alleged virulent attack by the Minister.
“In the circumstances, and in the absence of the relevant material facts, the Law Society is not in a position to so take legal action in defence of the judiciary as you demand.”
The letter was signed by the President of the Law Society of Lesotho Attorney, Tumisang Mosotho.
However, the four lawyers are not ready to give up the fight after receiving a letter from the Law Society.
Attorney Qhalehang Letsika told the Lesotho Times yesterday that they were going to take action, although he said they were still considering what kind of action to take.
“We are going to take action, but still considering what kind of action to take; now that they are saying they are not prepared to protect the courts,” he said.
On the other hand, the Constitutional Court has since reserved judgment in a case in which the said four top lawyers are challenging the legality of the re-appointment of Justice Mosito as Court of Appeal President.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane re-appointed Justice Mosito as Court of Appeal President on 1 August 2017, almost a year after he had been forced to resign to avoid impeachment over tax evasion charges by the then Pakalitha Mosisili-led coalition government.
Two weeks after his re-appointment, four lawyers lodged a High Court application challenging the validity of his appointment.
The quartet argue in their constitutional application that Dr Thabane did not follow due process when he advised His Majesty to re-appoint Justice Mosito. They essentially argue that Justice Mosito is unfit to head the top court. Judgment on the case will be made sometime in February.