We’ve a highly politicised judiciary

We’ve a highly politicised judiciary

THE introduction of coalition governments in Lesotho came with many negative changes. One such change was the incessant intrusion of the executive in the affairs that it should restrain from. One organ of state that has not known peace as a result is the judiciary.
The primary school that curriculum, in particular the social studies syllabus, teaches learners the simple concept of organs of state. At primary level, children are taught that these organs of state are namely the executive, judiciary and legislature.

The three organs should at all times respect each other and abide by the principle of state sovereignty (no organ should interfere in the affairs of another).
In an address to South African university students last year, former president Jacob Zuma argued there is no such thing as state capture. He said for a state to be captured it means all the three arms should be involved.
Zuma was referring to the Zondo Commission that has put him and his family on the spot in that country. However, what is important was that he acknowledged and appreciated the independence of each organ of state from the other, an issue that seems to have been overlooked by the Lesotho government.

During the tenure of the first coalition government, one of the state organs that was attacked was the judiciary.
The government made all efforts to kick out Justice Ramolibeli from the Appeal Court. While the government was chasing Justice Ramolibeli, the opposition was up-in arms in his defence. They argued he was one of the best judges this country has ever had.
The bone of contention in this case remains a mystery as both the government and the opposition alike had no business in intruding in the courts and how they are run.
The government was able to remove Ramolibeli from office and replaced him with Justice Kananelo Mosito.
That move did not go down well with the opposition of that time. This is because they viewed Justice Mosito’s appointment as political. They believed the presence of Justice Mosito would adversely affect their cases in the courts.

In particular they were referring to a case of the then Democratic Congress deputy leader and leader of opposition Hon Monyane Moleleki.
Fast forward to the second coalition, Justice Mosito was chased out of office. The executive felt that Justice Mosito was wrongly appointed. Some of the reasons for his removal had nothing to do with his competence. Rather I view them as being more inclined to politicking.
A tribunal that had been set up found Justice Mosito guilty. Despite Justice Mosito’s move to resign before he was expelled he was still slapped with an expulsion.
When the current coalition got back into office Justice Mosito was restored to his position. They claimed they viewed his expulsion as being political and malicious.

Surprisingly, they started chasing the Chief Justice Ntomeng Majara until they suspended her. Justice Majara, just like her colleagues from the Court of Appeal, was suspended on malicious and unfounded allegations.
However, talk in the streets was that the current coalition felt they could not completely trust her. She was too close to the ousted coalition led by Pakalitha Mosisili. All these moves are an indication that there is no respect or line of demarcation between and among the arms of state.

However, my concern is the politicisation of the judiciary. Many studies that have been carried out in Lesotho by both local and international researchers have all come to one conclusion: that our organs of state are highly politicised.
The politicisation of the judiciary has now spilled into political party factions. This has tainted the image of our judiciary. Justice Nthomeng Majara was blamed for delivering what people said was a biased judgment that led to the split of the Democratic Congress (DC).

Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase has been a victim of the disgruntled members of the ruling All Basotho Convention. A faction led by Professor Nqosa Mahao have come out guns blazing against ACJ Mahase.
Their major complaint is that she is so biased that she has even violated legal procedures.
The faction feels hard done by ACJ Mahase who they accuse of being sympathetic to the “State House” faction which is linked to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his wife, Maesiah.

Justice Mahase has been attacked on all media platforms. She has even complained that she was insulted during a march by protesters two weeks ago. She has since resolved to file a case against the offenders.
When a judge is being attacked by politicians that is a clear indication that something is very wrong with our judiciary.
The politicians have now turned the judiciary into a scapegoat that they will attack when they fail to solve their internal problems. The ABC should deal with its internal issues and stop attacking the judiciary.
If they had a solution to their problems, they would not have approached the courts. The judiciary should also not put its nose where it does not belong. As much as we want the judiciary to be respected, they should also respect themselves.

As it stands a lot of Basotho are not happy with how the judiciary is currently working.
The opposition and the ruling parties alike are not happy with how the judiciary is working. After the recent judgement I came across a Facebook post by Advocate Molati who was complaining that his colleagues from Botswana were laughing at him because of the way things are being done in Lesotho.
That is really worrying. There is no need to attack judges. The state organs must however work to ensure they promote their independence.

Kelello Rakolobe

Previous ABC is on life support!
Next Judgment has worsened crisis

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