MASERU — High Court and Court of Appeal registrar ’Mathato Sekoai has not set foot in her office since February last year.
Yet next week she will receive her full salary and benefits.
It will be the 16 paycheque she will receive for doing nothing.
In those 16 months she has been sent from pillar to post as she sought to get her job back.
Sekoai is not on study leave.
Neither has she faced disciplinary charges.
She is just in limbo: A substantive registrar who cannot perform her duties.
This week Sekoai filed an application in the High Court demanding that she be reinstated.
The respondents are the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the attorney general as well as the Minister of Justice and his principal secretary.
Sekoai’s troubles started in November 2010 when High Court judges wrote to the then chief justice Mahapela Lehohla alleging that she is corrupt, disrespectful and arrogant.
They demanded that she be fired or transferred.
Justice Lehohla then ordered her to go on leave pending investigations into the judges’ allegations.
While on leave she received a letter from the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences saying the allegations of corruption against her could not be substantiated.
On January 25, 2011, the chief justice requested each of the High Court judges to write letters substantiating their allegations against Sekoai but none responded.
She returned from her forced leave on February 6, 2012 but was surprised when judges responded by going on strike.
Despite failing to substantiate their allegations the judges insisted that they would not go back to work until she is fired or transferred.
Two days later the JSC informed Sekoai, without prior warning, that she was being transferred to the position of chief magistrate.
In her affidavit Sekoai describes the decision as “shocking”, “highly prejudicial” and “a stark violation of the rules of natural justice”.
Her transfer however stalled after fierce opposition from magistrates who alleged that she was inexperienced and should not be allowed to hop over other candidates.
So Sekoai spent the next seven months at home as she waited for the JSC to make a decision.
On August 8 the JSC informed her that she should not take up the chief magistrates’ position until further notice. Her lawyers demanded that she be reinstated as the registrar within 14 days.
The JSC said it was considering the matter but needed more time to make a decision.
The attorney general also received the same letter and he too asked for more time.
There was no progress on the matter until March this year when the attorney general, who is the government’s chief legal adviser, informed the JSC that Sekoai’s transfer was unfair.
She should be allowed to resume her duties as registrar, he said.
The JSC seems to have ignored the attorney general because Sekoai is yet to be reinstated.
Sekoai wants the High Court to declare her transfer illegal.
She argues that the JSC had no right to transfer her.
“I aver that I was definitely entitled to a hearing before such an adverse decision could be taken against me,” Sekoai says in her affidavit.
She alleges that the JSC’s decision was necessitated by the judges’ “baseless complaints” against her.
This, she says, is unlawful because the constitution states that the JSC cannot be influenced by any person or authority.
“My life has been abruptly disrupted as well as my professional career all for no justifiable cause whatsoever. My life and professional career have been hanging in the balance for nearly two years.”
She has given the respondents until August 28 to notify her lawyer if they want to oppose her application.
After that they will have 14 days to file opposing affidavits.