MASERU — Tension between workers and management at the High Court has reached boiling point.
The Lesotho Times can reveal that the registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal ‘Mathato Sekoai last Friday stormed out of a staff meeting she had convened to discuss problems at the courts.
Sources said Sekoai, who is in charge of the administration of the two courts, walked out when Thabang Mohafa, a judge’s clerk, insinuated that she had failed to solve problems at the courts.
Sekoai is said to have called the meeting to discuss problems at the courts and come up with a strategic plan for this year.
The administration of the stores department, working conditions and the operations of the registrar’s offices were the main issues on the agenda.
But the meeting which started at 9am had to be abandoned a few moments later after a seemingly irate Sekoai allegedly packed her files and left following a spat with Mohafa.
Orderlies, messengers and typists together with some professional staff like judge’s clerks and registrars have in the past ganged up against Sekoai.
They have complained about their general welfare and the lack of resources at the courts.
They have also accused her of “abusing her power”.
Secret meetings have been held to plot her ouster and some senior employees have written her angry letters accusing her of humiliating them.
A source said tempers flared during Friday’s meeting when staff started discussing the stores department.
Cleaners, the sources said, complained that they are not able to get cleaning materials because the stores department is always closed.
“All went wrong immediately after (Thabang) Mohafa said the problems in the stores were a reflection of the leadership at the courts,” the source said.
After that Sekoai ordered Mohafa to sit down saying she would not allow the discussion take the wrong direction.
“Sekoai said she did not want to be insulted in front of staff.”
“Mr (Lesitsi) Mokeke (deputy registrar) intervened and said we should speak respectfully. He also told Mohafa that this was not the proper platform for him to raise such issues.”
The source said Mohafa refused to sit down and insisted on speaking about the stores department.
“And when Mohafa started saying the problems in the stores department had become so perennial that it was time to deal with the leadership Sekoai stood up and walked out of the meeting.”
Sekoai this week refused to comment and referred questions to the information officer ‘Mathato Mphale.
Mphale confirmed that Sekoai had stormed out of the meeting.”
“She (Sekoai) stopped Mr Mohafa after he (Mohafa) asked what the issue about stores meant to the administration of the High Court.
“’M’e Sekoai said she had already warned us that she would not allow the proceedings if she felt the discussions were taking a wrong direction,” Mphale said.
“Mr Mohafa insisted that he wanted to speak and he said he would stick to the issue of stores only but the registrar said she could not allow him to speak.
“When Mr Mohafa insisted that he wanted to speak the registrar took her books and walked out.”
This is not the first time that Mohafa and Sekoai have clashed.
Investigations have revealed that on July 2 Mohafa wrote a strongly worded letter to Sekoai accusing her of incompetence.
He requested that Sekoai step down as the registrar of the High Court and the Court of Appeal or seek a transfer.
Mohafa also copied the letter to the Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla and the president of the Court of Appeal Michael Ramodibedi.
“I also humbly request you to quickly accept this advice for the good administration of this court,” Mohafa said.
He also accused Sekoai of failing to address problems at the courts.
Two months ago High Court deputy registrar Motlatsi Kolisang also wrote a damning letter to Sekoai accusing her of abusing her authority and victimising him.
The letter was copied to the president of the Court of Appeal, chief justice, judges, minister of justice, attorney general, police commissioner, commissioner of correctional services and the principal secretary in the Ministry of Justice.
In that letter, Kolisang wanted Sekoai to explain why she had expelled him from a weekly meeting of the chief justice and principal secretary of the justice ministry.
He said Sekoai had expelled him “with utmost and blatant disrespect and humiliation a human being would display to another human being”.
He said the registrar verbally attacked him and “assaulted me with harassment of the highest magnitude”.
Apart from the disharmony between workers and management the High Court is also battling with serious financial problems that have ground operations.