OPPOSITION parties in parliament have pulled out of all multi-sector reforms processes in protest of the government’s decision to suspend the Chief Justice, Nthomeng Majara.
The parties announced their decision at a press briefing in Maseru yesterday.
Justice Majara was suspended with effect from 11 September 2018 to pave way for a three-member tribunal to try her over a litany of misconduct charges including her alleged failure to ensure the timeous delivery of justice.
According to the leader of the opposition and deputy leader of the Democratic Congress (DC), Mathibeli Mokhothu, the opposition will not participate in the reforms until the government creates “a conducive environment”.
“This is until a mutually agreed conducive environment has been created and this means immediate withdrawal of our representatives in the National Dialogue Planning Committee (NDPC),” Mr Mokhothu said.
Mr Mokhothu said the opposition sacrificed several key matters of principle which constituted the demands they made as their conditions to participate in the National Leaders Forum leading to the national dialogue which will eventually pave way for the national reforms.
“Lesotho and the whole world are bowed down in shame at the escalating acts of gross violation of the rule of law by the government.
“Violation of court orders has become the norm even as we are told to gear up for the reforms which will ensure good governance, transparency, accountability and the rule of law, among others,” Mr Mokhothu said.
He said they sacrificed on the understanding that the government would join other stakeholders in a “serious and concerted effort to accord credence to the reforms” but that all their hopes were dashed.
Mr Mokhothu said the suspension of Justice Majara was in stark violation of a 17 May 2018 court order wherein Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was “interdicted from exercising the provisions of Section 121 (5) and (7) of the Constitution in suspending the Chief Justice, they went ahead with that plan and even appointed an Acting Chief Justice”.
“We all agree that the office of Chief Justice is not the type of office that gets ruffled over-night but to do so in violation of existing court orders is not only a travesty of justice but testimony to a complete breakdown of law and order,” said Mokhothu.
He said the government has proceeded to institute other actions against the Chief Justice including a court order which she was served with on Sunday barring her from entering the Palace of Justice.
“Is this not like a Mosotho being barred from going to their chief to seek solace or reprieve? The chief architect of this abnormality is Prime Minister Thomas Thabane using the hand of a judge whose bona fides are questionable. This ruffling of the judiciary is done for the sole purpose to get foreign judges who will dance to the music of the government,” Mr Mokhothu said.
The opposition also cited some diplomats who were forced to leave their countries of deployment despite the existing court orders “and in one instance government lost a case of contempt of court”.
Opposition also raised the ongoing battle of government and the Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Associations (LNWMGA) and some of its individual members.
Opposition says it is also deeply concerned about acts of rampant lawlessness by the police.
Mr Mokhutu said they have brought the violations to the attention of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) but said this has not helped.
“Rather than decrease, such violations have actually increased and the notorious police torture team has become more daring.
“We have pondered these issues long enough and have come to the painful yet obvious reality that our participation in the dialogue and the reforms will be complicit in the abuse and gross violations to which our people are subjected on a daily basis.
“As opposition parties in the 10th Parliament of Lesotho, we have demonstrated willingness to accord the reforms process credibility despite our concerns on several issues tabled before SADC but the same cannot be said of the government,” Mr Mokhothu said.
Opposition has urged SADC to ensure that all the foregoing court orders and several others are respected.
In conclusion the opposition has lauded Amnesty International and the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association for their position on the suspension of CJ Majara and urge other international organizations and in particular SADC to take a decisive position on this matter and other matters brought to their attention.