Writing on the wall for judge

Writing on the wall for judge

THE government last week cranked up the pressure on Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara after it sent her a letter notifying her of its intention to set up a tribunal to investigate whether she is still fit for office. The investigation could pave the way for Justice Majara’s eventual ouster as Chief Justice. Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s April 27 letter marks a new low in the relations between the government and the judiciary. By sending her the letter, the Thabane-led administration is finally setting in motion a legal process to remove Justice Majara as Chief Justice.

The litany of indiscretions levelled against Justice Majara would suggest she is no longer fit to hold the high office within the judiciary. One of the key allegations is that Justice Majara has failed to write judgments and preside over contested matters in the last two years which render her “unfit to occupy office as Chief Justice”.

She is also accused of failing to take disciplinary action against High Court judges “who fail to deliver judgments timeously thereby compromising the administration of justice”. The judge is also accused of failing to deal with the case of suspended Registrar of the High Court Mathato Sekoai. The letter also accuses her of bringing the judiciary into disrepute after she leased a residential property at an inflated rental from a fellow judge. These are very serious allegations levelled against the Chief Justice and it would appear the government is determined to get her out by any means necessary.

While the government might use the legal instruments at its disposal, it is important that the whole process is not done in a manner that would suggest she is being hounded out of office. The general perception out there is that Justice Majara is now being persecuted for refusing to play ball in the plan to get Professor Kananelo Mosito installed as President of the Court of Appeal. It would be a pity if Justice Majara’s removal were to be seen as political persecution of a judge by the executive.

Critics allege that Lesotho’s politicians are out to capture the judiciary to ensure it serves their agenda. They argue the judiciary must be the last bastion in a democratic society to ensure justice for everybody. But we have been here before. Former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Michael Ramodibeli, was also pushed out for allegedly “bringing the judiciary into disrepute”. Justice Mosito also suffered the same fate. However, none of the removals has brought an improvement in the running of the judiciary in Lesotho.

Instead, what we have seen is more chaos and frustrations with the manner in which our courts operate. We can only foresee a bruising battle in the courts with some lawyers, and even some sympathetic judges, fighting in Justice Majara’s corner. That could mean more chaos within our courts. The backlog in cases will continue as judges fight back against what they may perceive as a nosy executive. The biggest losers in all this will be the people some of whom have waited for years to have their cases resolved.

The “merry-go-round” within the judiciary must therefore stop so that the sector can concentrate on improving the welfare of the people.

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