Third acting judge sworn in

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…as judiciary steps up efforts to clear 4000-plus cases backlog

Mohalenyane Phakela

MAGISTRATE Palesa Rantara has been sworn-in as an acting judge.

She is third acting judge after last week’s swearing-in of Justices Semapo Peete and Tšabo Matooane. The recruitment of the acting judges is part of the judiciary’s efforts to clear the massive 4000-plus backlog of cases that have piled up in the High Court over the past few years.

She was sworn-in at the High court on Monday by senior Judge Tšeliso Monapathi who stood in for Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane who was seized with the ongoing exercise of interviewing candidates to fill the eight vacant judges’ posts in the High Court.

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony, Justice Monapathi said the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had resolved to hire acting judges to help reduce the criminal cases which have been pending for a long time.

“The appointment of acting judges is aimed at clearing the backlog of criminal cases which are before the High Court,” Justice Monapathi said.

“It is expected that by end of April, there will be significant progress in clearing the backlog,” he added.

His remarks echo Justice Sakoane who last week said the JSC had resolved to hire acting judges to help reduce the backlog of cases and in particular the murder cases which have been pending for a long time.

“These appointments have been necessitated by the need to tackle the huge backlog of criminal matters,” Justice Sakoane said at the swearing-in of Justices Peete and Matooane.

“This country is grieved by the high numbers of homicide and murder cases. Some of these are in the process of being disposed of and others have been pending in the courts of law for a long time.

“Our judiciary does not have enough judges to handle criminal matters. Currently we have nine judges; some of them do not handle murder cases, principally those (judges) in the commercial division (of the High Court),” Justice Sakoane said.

The swearing-in of the three acting judges brings to 11, the number of judges in the High Court.

The substantive judges are Justices Sakoane, Banyane, Mathaba, Khabo, Tšeliso Monapathi, ‘Maseforo Mahase, Molefi Makara, Moroke Mokhesi and Keketso Moahloli.

The judiciary is looking to dispose 35 criminal cases between now and 29 April 2022.

These include business mogul Tšeliso Nthane’s much delayed murder trial which has now been slated to run from 14 to 18 March 2022.

The business mogul shot and killed his then 51-year-old truck driver, Kopang Mohapi, on 10 January 2019.

After the shooting, Mr Nthane handed himself over to the Butha-Buthe police station where a murder charge was preferred against him. Justice Sakoane, who was then an ordinary High Court judge, presided over Mr Nthane’s bail application in January 2019 and released him on M5000 bail. His case has been pending since then.

Despite the JSC’s eagerness to conclude the matter, the Lesotho Times understands that the Crown will face difficulties in prosecuting the matter as witnesses, who had initially cooperated, were now reluctant to testify against Mr Nthane after some off-court arrangements.

Another pending high-profile murder trial is that of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his wife, ‘Maesaiah.

The Thabanes are set to be tried from 8 to 10 March 2022 for the 14 June 2017 murder of Mr Thabane’s ex-wife, Lipolelo. Their co-accused are Famo gangsters; Seabata “Lieta” Sello and Macheli “Lebese” Koeshe.

The late Famo musician and gangster, Rethabile ‘Mosotho Chakela’ Mokete, and Molefi “Mokata” Matima had been among the suspects before their deaths 2021 and 2020 respectively. It is highly unlikely that Sello and Koeshe will attend the trial as they have been hiding in South Africa ever since they were linked to the crime. ‘Maesaiah has already been charged for the murder and is currently out on M10 000 bail.

Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs Minister Lehlohonolo Moramotse’s son, Thabo Moramotse, is also expected to stand trial for the murder of his brother’s wife, Martha Kota-Moramotse, in June 2016.

He is accused alongside Tekane Tekane and Pako Sekhonyana. The trio is out on bail but Thabo fled the country, prompting the High Court to issue a warrant for his arrest in September 2020. The trial has been set for 7 to 11 March 2022.

 

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