Mahao faction in court bid to oust Justice Mahase

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Mohalenyane Phakela

“EXPELLED” All Basotho Convention (ABC) Secretary General, Lebohang Hlaele, has filed a Constitutional Court application for an order to compel the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to recommend the removal of Acting Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase.

Mr Hlaele wants Justice Mahase removed from her post on the grounds that she breached the section 118 (2) of the national constitution by interfering with Court of Appeal President Justice Kananelo Mosito’s duties. Section 118 (2) of the constitution states that “the courts shall, in the performance of their functions, be independent and free from interference”.

Mr Hlalele alleges that by writing to Justice Mosito on 27 May 2019, accusing him of interfering with her duties, Justice Mahase was in fact the one who had interfered with the latter and violated his right to independence and freedom from interference in the discharge of his duties.

Justice Mahase’s 27 May letter was subsequently seized upon by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and used as the basis for the latter’s 5 July 2019 letter to Justice Mosito demanding that he “show cause” why he should not be suspended to pave way for investigations to determine whether or not he was suitable to remain as president of the apex court.

Dr Thabane’s move to suspend Justice Mosito was challenged in two separate Court of Appeal applications by the Law Society of Lesotho and the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of the All Basotho Convention (ABC). On 24 July, an out of court settlement was reached by Prof Mahao faction and the Prime Minister to withdraw both letters which were addressed to Justice Mosito.

Dr Thabane’s move to suspend Justice Mosito was challenged in two separate Court of Appeal applications by the Law Society of Lesotho and the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of the ABC. On 24 July 2019, Dr Thabane and Justice Mahase agreed an out of court settlement with the Mahao faction to withdraw their 27 May and 5 July letters to Justice Mosito.

Dr Thabane has since written a fresh letter to Justice Mosito demanding that the latter “show cause” why he should not be suspended and impeached on the grounds that his employment at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) “might compromise your independence, impartiality and competency as a judicial officer”.

It appears Mr Hlaele is not satisfied with the withdrawal of Justice Mahase’s 27 May letter to Justice Mosito hence the latest application to have her removed from the judiciary altogether.

Justice Mahase, the JSC, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, The Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo, the Law Society of Lesotho and His Majesty King Letsie III are the first to sixth respondents respectively in the application.

In his notice of motion filed on Tuesday, Mr Hlaele wants the Constitutional Court to order the King Letsie III to appoint a tribunal “to inquire into the fitness or otherwise of the first respondent (Justice Mahase) to hold office as a judge of the High Court”.

“Upon establishment of a tribunal, the second respondent (the JSC) must be directed to recommend to the sixth respondent (King Letsie III), the suspension of the first respondent (Justice Mahase) as a judge of the High Court.”

Mr Hlaele also wants the Constitutional Court to declare that the “substantially similar letters” authored by Justice Mahase and Dr Thabane and addressed to Justice Mosito “amount to an utter breach of section 118 (2) of the constitution (which states that the courts must be free from interference in the discharge of their duties).

Mr Hlaele and the rest of the pro-Mahao have made no secret of their dissatisfaction with Justice Mahase who they accuse of bias against them in cases relating to their battle with Dr Thabane for the control of the ABC.

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