Justice under siege

Justice under siege

JUST when you think things will not get any worse another boob is visited upon us by our politicians.
On September 12, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane advised the King to suspend Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara.
The decision is as ill-advised as it is callous. It’s a blunder of a collosal magnitude.
The chief justice was at a conference in Australia when she got the news.

Not even the two High Court orders interdicting government from interfering with her work could protect her.
We will be lying to ourselves if we say we are shocked at the turn of events.

History has taught us that our governments and politicians are capable of patently reckless decisions.
The chief justice’s suspension is a reflection of how our government is managing important national affairs.

Decisions are being made on the hoof for political expedience. The biggest losers are the institutions that are supposed to be the foundation of our fledgling but flagging democracy.
The country and the people are poorer without strong institutions like the judiciary.
There is a clear strategy from Thabane’s administration to make sure that the judiciary is subservient to the executive.
That strategy has no inclination to uphold the rule of law.

The purpose, it would seem, is to bend to the perceived whims and interests of the executive, senior government officials, business associates and cronies.
Having pursued this dangerous tactic, the government should not take offence when observers accuse it of hurrying to push out the chief justice because she is not the right person to achieve what seems to be a nefarious agenda.

What the government has done is a relatively logical operation of people in a desperate position and are trying to survive probably the most difficult period of their political tenure.
We have seen politicians lashing out in the past administrations. This government is no different.
We see leaders trying so hard to convince the general public that their government is in total control when in fact, it is not. I strongly disagree with the Prime Minister’s advice to the King because Chief Justice Majara had two court orders barring the Prime Minister from suspending her, at least up until her case is finalised in the courts of law.
It’s unfortunate that this government, just like the ones before it, seeks to use the judiciary for political ends.

We have to remember that this government came to power on the strength of its message on the need to restore the rule of law which has been undermined. As such, it should be judged on the basis of those promises. And when it doesn’t live up to its word, we must remind it quickly before it loses its way.
The suspension of the chief justice is a sign that the government is deviating from its initial promises. The people’s disappointment and frustration is therefore justified because this is not the mess they voted for.

The rule of law can’t be selective and the independence of judiciary remains key in maintaining law and order, and strengthening democracy.
Just because the prime minister has powers under the constitution does not mean that he can use them willy-nilly.
I would argue that until the matter is finalised in the courts, Justice Majara must remain the chief justice.

That is what a competent court has ruled. Court orders can’t be nullified by the prime minister’s advice to His Majesty.
I truly respect his wishes and advice, but I am afraid his executive privileges must never circumvent court orders.
What makes this fiasco worse is that there are questions that remain unanswered about Justice ‘Meseforo Mahase who the prime minister has appointed acting chief justice.

I thought the prime minister would have the wisdom to tread carefully on such appointments and at least wait for the national reforms to kick start. The reforms are meant to revamp our national institutions so that they are strong enough to deliver on their mandate, withstand political pressure, and help safeguard our democracy.
It is obvious that after the reforms, those institutions will have to be led by strong characters whose integrity is not questionable. Any appointment now will be incongruent to the spirit of the reforms.

You cannot appoint a leader and then set the mandate of the institution they have to lead. How we handle the reforms will determine the future of this country.
Blatant failure to comply with court orders is unacceptable. No individual or official of the state is above the law or can act in defiance of constitutional prescriptions. It is clear that Chief Justice Majara is a casualty of political interference in the judiciary. I therefore reiterate Amnesty International’s position that the government “must show restraint and respect human rights and the rule of law by immediately lifting Majara’s suspension and reinstating her as Chief Justice.”
It’s the right thing to do.

By:Ramahooana matlosa

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