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Longstanding lawsuits under the microscope

by Lesotho Times
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. . . Sakoane to decide whether to strike 87 civil cases off the roll

Mohalenyane Phakela 

CHIEF Justice Sakoane Sakoane will today hold a motion roll to decide whether or not to strike off from the roll 87 civil cases that not been heard within six months of being filed.

A notice issued last week by the High Court’s Assistant Registrar, Advocate Stafford Sharite, indicates that the oldest of these lawsuits dates back to 2004 with the most recent being filed in 2018.

Despite being filed, no action has been taken by the applicants and respondents to ensure the cases are heard, hence Justice Sakoane’s decision to hold the motion roll to decide the fate of the lawsuits.

In his notice of the motion, Adv Sharite said lawyers concerned with the cases have to appear before Justice Sakoane today to convince him why the longstanding lawsuits should not be struck off the roll.

“Notice is hereby issued to all (legal) practitioners that all these cases have not been prosecuted despite being filed in the past six months or more,” Adv Sharite states.

“Neither have there been any steps by the applicants and respondents towards ensuring that the cases are prosecuted or dismissed for want of prosecution.

“In the circumstances, I am directed by the Chief Justice to serve notice that all the listed cases and/or counter claims if any, be put on a motion roll for the purposes of considering their dismissal for want of prosecution on the abovementioned date (30 September 2021).

“All parties and regal representatives are directed to appear on the said date of the motion roll to show cause why their respective cases shall not be dismissed for want of prosecution with costs, unless sufficient reasons are shown to the contrary.

“In the event that a case is not liable for dismissal for want of prosecution, the parties must come prepared for the court’s imposition of conditions for future conduct of the proceedings for the expeditious disposal of the cases,” Adv Sharite further states.

Should the cases be struck off the roll, this would help ease the huge backlog of cases currently before the High Court estimated at more than 4000.

The judiciary has for many years failed to deal with the huge backlog due to understaffing at the High Court and the government’s repeated failure to allocate enough resources to enable the courts to do their work.

There are currently only eight judges in the High Court and these are inadequately resourced to deal with the huge burden of criminal and civil cases before them.

In May this year, the High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar, Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoa, said the government had allocated a measly M937 366 to be shared by all the country’s courts including the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Adv Sekoai told journalists in Maseru at the time that the meagre amount was for the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year from April to June 2021. The M937 366 budget for all the courts was much less than the M1, 3 million electricity debt owed by the Maseru Magistrates’ Court alone.

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