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Lawyers seek to prevent Chief Justice’s ouster

by Lesotho Times
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Tefo Tefo

THREE prominent lawyers, King’s Counsel Zwelakhe Mda, Karabo Mohau and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, on Tuesday lodged an urgent application before the Constitutional Court to block the possible removal of Chief Justice, Nthomeng Majara.

The three lawyers indicate in their court papers that they want the court to prevent the government from firing the Chief Justice on the basis of the 9 December 2017 utterances made by the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Lebohang Hlaele, that Justice Majara should either resign or be impeached for corruption.

Mr Hlaele said the Chief Justice was corrupt and gave her an ultimatum to either resign or face an impeachment tribunal for allegedly engaging in a corrupt deal of renting a house for M27 000 per month from Justice Teboho Moiloa.

Mr Hlaele made the remarks soon after receiving a petition from the scores of Basotho who staged a protest march to demand the swearing-in of Justice Kananelo Mosito as the Court of Appeal President after his re-appointment in August last year.

The lawyers subsequently wrote to the Law Society of Lesotho on 2 January 2018, calling upon the lawyers’ body to take action against Mr Hlaele for verbally attacking the Chief Justice.

They accused the minister of being “very low, unfair, cheap and lacking in civility” when attacking the Chief Justice, adding that, the Law Society was mandated to protect the judiciary.

But, the Law Society refused to heed the lawyers’ demand.

The lawyers then decided to file the application before the Constitutional Court seeking an order preventing the government from dismissing the Chief Justice or any judge of the High Court on the basis of Mr Hlaele’s utterances.

In the application, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane; the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Lebohang Hlaele; the Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Correctional Services, Mahali Phamotse; the Attorney General and the Law Society of Lesotho are cited as the respondents.

They are seeking an order that the respondents are “interdicted and prevented from taking any or whatever measures against any judge(s) of the High Court including but not limited to measures contemplated in annexure ‘QL1’ or the constitution,” read part of the notice of motion.

QL1 annexure is the copy of the utterances made by Mr Hlaele when addressing protesters at the High Court premises on 9 December 2017.

The three lawyers also want the court to declare that the utterances by Mr Hlaele were in violation of some provisions of the constitution.

The lawyers representing the government and those representing the three applicants will appear before court on Monday to propose how the case should proceed.

Attorney Letsika also prepared an affidavit to justify the importance of the case in protecting the independence of the judiciary.

“I aver that the applicants have legal standing to institute the current proceedings in their capacity as legal practitioners in the courts of law because there are chances the administration of justice will be brought into disrepute and the judiciary stands threatened by the executive.

“The present applicants also seek to vindicate the upholding of law, in which the applicants, as practicing lawyers, have an interest.

“There are, apparently, concerted efforts to embarrass, harass and ultimately undermine the judiciary by not only members of the executive but also by some senior lawyers and members of the public making common cause with such lawyers,” argues Attorney Letsika.

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