Law Society urges PM to probe graft in judiciary

MASERU — The Law Society of Lesotho has urged Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to set up a tribunal to investigate serious allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the judiciary. In a statement signed by Law Society president Zwelakhe Mda and secretary general Ts’eliso Mokoko, the society said it was clear that “all is not well in the Palace of Justice”.The society’s statement comes in the wake of an unprecedented letter written by High Court judges to Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla last month raising serious concerns about the conduct of the registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal ‘Mathato Sekoai. The society said the “10 puisane judges who constitute the entire High Court bench” raise issues which “impact negatively on the administration of justice”. In their letter the judges complained about the absence of proper channels of communication between judges and the chief justice. They also complained that the chief justice was over-protective towards the registrar. They also complained about lack of transparency in staff appointments which had “resulted in low staff morale, corruption, factionalism, disrespect and arrogance on the part of the registrar”. They asked the chief justice to redeploy Sekoai. The law society said it had received another letter of concern over the registrar’s conduct from chief magistrates, dated November 18. “We urge the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to uphold the values of the constitution and protect the integrity of the judiciary by setting up a tribunal to investigate the serious allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the judiciary and or put in place forensic investigation similar to the one carried out in the office of the Prime Minister,” the society said. But the law society said while it did not hold any brief for the registrar they were duty bound to make the following observation as the watchdog of the rule of law: “The registrar is a substantive holder of a position in government and she cannot be redeployed willy-nilly like a political appointee within the structures of a political organisation. “As a holder of a substantive position her rights are well protected by the constitution which the judges who have asked for her deployment are duty bound to protect,” the society said. The society lashed out at the chief justice’s style of administration which they said “is premised on a one man show in terms of other role players like the Council of the Law Society who are marginalised and excluded from various decision-making processes”. It also complained that the Judicial Service Commission is being used as an “instrument to reward compliant judicial officers with promotion and punish those overtly independent”. “Allocation of cases to judges is arbitrary, selective and unsystematic,” the society said. To address these concerns the law society said the Prime Minister should promote the values and principles enunciated in the Kingdom’s constitution by refraining from appealing to foreign authorities to solve problems which the country’s constitution has unequivocally indicated how they should be dealt with.

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