Chief Justice in trouble

Chief Justice in trouble

MASERU – CHIEF Justice Nthomeng Justice Majara might soon be hauled to the coals over a luxurious house the High Court rented for her two years ago.

The M27 000-per-month house was rented from the chief justice’s colleague, Justice Teboho Moiloa, without following correct procurement procedures.

The deal has also triggered allegations of conflict of interest against both judges.

This is according to a damning audit report on the judiciary by the Ministry of Finance’s internal audit division. The rent is almost seven times more than Justice Majara’s M4000 housing allowance.

Although the report raised several other issues of mismanagement and accounting shenanigans in the judiciary, thepost has been told that the government has zeroed in on the controversial housing deal.

Sources this week said the government wants to use that report to impeach Justice Majara. Justice Moiloa is also likely to face disciplinary action for his part in the contentious deal, according to sources privy to the matter.

The same applies to Acting High Court and Court of Appeal registrar Lesitsi Mokeke who presided over the deal as the judiciary’s chief accounting officer.

The report was particularly critical of Mokeke’s management of the judiciary, pointing out that there was a general disregard for proper procedures in the handling of cash.

thepost has been told that senior officials from the Ministry of Justice have been analysing the report for the past three weeks.

A source said in the next few days the Minister of Justice Mahali Phamotse will receive a detailed analysis of the report as well as recommendations that chief justice, Justice Moiloa and Mokeke should be removed.

The minister will then advise Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. It is only the prime minister who can advise the king to establish a tribunal to investigate a judge’s alleged transgressions.

Ministry of Justice and Correctional Service’s principal secretary Lebohang Mochaba said she would not comment on the judiciary because she “respects the principle of separation of power”.

“What I can only say is that the ministry is looking at the report and the minister will be advised,” Mochaba said.

The source said the minister is eager to discuss some of the allegations in the report before advising the Prime Minister.

The chief justice seems to have also sensed that she is not wanted and is said to have started planning her exit strategy.

A few weeks ago she travelled to Geneva for an interview for a judge’s position at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The government paid for her travel although it had been approved by the previous administration.

Sources say if the chief justice gets that job the government might be forced to stop its plan to impeach her and second her to the ICC.

But if the impeachment process starts before her appointment the judge might find her position untenable.

The report said renting that house for the chief justice was an “uneconomical use of public funds”.  It recommended that the lease should be reviewed “for better decision making on the economical utilization of financial resources”.

Yet despite those recommendations that sub-lease agreement which came into effect in January 2016 is yet to be cancelled and the High Court continues to pay.

By the end of this month the High Court would have paid a staggering M594 000 to the Moiloas.

When the contract expires in January next year the High Court would have paid a whopping M648 000.

The chief justice’s housing allowance, as stipulated in her contract, would have amounted to M96 000 only.

A few months ago Mokeke told a press conference that the house had been leased through an estate agent that is facilitating the payment of the rentals from the High Court to Justice Moiloa.

He said only after identifying the house did High Court officials discover it belongs to the judge. A copy of the sub-lease agreement leaked to thepost shows that the landlord is not Justice Moiloa but his wife.

The initials of the landlord are MML Moiloa while the judge’s initials are JT.

Staff Reporter


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