Let’s play by the rules

Let’s play by the rules

THE government’s unrelenting pursuit on Chief Justice Majara only serves to undermine the independence of the courts and buttress the perception that the executive wants to capture the judiciary. Granted, the executive has issues with the chief justice. Her housing deal left a sour taste in the mouth and triggered questions about her integrity.

The same can be said of her management of the courts, although that comes across as a trumped up charge to make the case for her exit potent.
No one disputes the Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s authority to advise his Majesty to establish a tribunal to investigate the conduct of judges.
Judges are not a law unto themselves and should be held accountable for their actions. But it is the way the government has gone about the process that gives the impression that there is more to its onslaught on the chief justice than just looking into Justice Majara’s fitness to hold the office.

Last week, Justice Majara was suspended despite the fact that there are two court orders barring the government from suspending her. When her lawyer said the suspension was illegal and she would continue with her duties, the government quickly got an order to stop her from entering her office and doing work.
The government’s explanation is that the order is meant to stop the chief justice from acting against the suspension and creating a constitutional crisis.
It’s a curious way of doing things because the government itself has ignored two High Court orders in her favour. So, in other words, the government is brandishing an order to force Justice Majara to comply with a suspension that is violating two High Court orders.

Clearly, the government doesn’t think it should play by the same rules it is applying against the judge.
The circumstances under which the order was granted are shocking. It was issued by Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase, the same judge appointed to act in Justice Majara’s position. Justice Mahase is therefore a beneficiary of her own judgement.

That the government doesn’t see such a brazen case of conflict of interest and a naked violation of the principal of fairness is staggering.
A seasoned jurist, Justice Mahase should have foreseen the obvious pitfalls of her actions and instantly recused herself from the case.
The government’s conduct feeds into the impression that its real motive is not to clean the judiciary of a bad leader but to hand its control to a preferred pliable candidate. In the process it is losing the higher moral ground it craves.

Surely the government has ample time and knowledge to follow due process without coming across as vindictive and unnecessarily hurrying to finalise such a sensitive matter. The consequences of ignoring due process in the removal of a judge are dire. There are already howls of protest from international organisations that view Justice Majara’s treatment as persecution in a government-instigated witch-hunt in the judiciary. Neutral civil organisations and lawyers fret over what they have come to see as an attempt to capture the judiciary. Many are losing confidence in the judiciary as they witness the government meddling in the courts.

All this is not because Justice Majara is hanging on to the position but that the government seems to be trampling on basic rules in a bid to remove her.
A sullied process begets a tainted result that damages the reputation of the government and further undermines the judiciary’s integrity. It’s time for sober minds to steer the government from this ruinous course. Otherwise, it will not be any different from the previous government it railed against for alleged interference in the courts.

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