Judge faces ouster

Judge faces ouster

MASERU – A storm is brewing against Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase.
Fresh from a barrage of attacks for her alleged bias in the All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s legal scuffles, Justice Mahase now faces a legal attempt to oust her.

The ABC’s secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, this week filed an urgent application seeking an order to force Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to suspend Justice Mahase.
Hlaele, whose faction is involved in the raucous battle for the ABC leadership, says Justice Mahase is no longer fit to be a judge and has brought the judiciary into disrepute.

His faction, led by Professor Nqosa Mahao, has been at the receiving end of Justice Mahase’s controversial judgements and contentious decisions they say reflect that she is biased against them.
The faction has repeatedly accused Justice Mahase of fighting in Thabane’s corner.

In his affidavit Hlaele argues that Justice Mahase has shown bias and incompetence in handling the ABC cases.
Hlaele alleges that Justice Mahase was the invisible hand behind Thabane’s recent attempt to impeach Court of Appeal President Justice Kananelo Mosito.

He asks the High Court to order Thabane to tell the King that Justice Mahase’s fitness to remain a judge should be investigated.
The plan, as reflected in the prayers, is that after receiving the request from Thabane the King will appoint a tribunal to investigate Justice Mahase’s alleged misconduct.
And as soon as the tribunal is appointed Justice Mahase will be suspended. Hlaele is also seeking the same orders against the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

He wants the JSC to inform the King that Justice Mahase’s suitability to remain a judge be investigated.
In sum, Hlaele’s application is meant to trigger the impeachment process against the judge.
The application filed on Tuesday brings a new dimension to what many view as a battle to control the judiciary.
It is no coincidence that it comes at a time when Thabane is also trying to impeach Justice Mosito, who Thabane’s faction says favours the Mahao faction.

Although Thabane has couched his move against Justice Mosito as aimed at protecting the judiciary’s integrity and impartiality, many believe he is getting back at the judge for ruling against him in the case against Mahao.
The idea seems to be that if the Prime Minister is going after Justice Mosito then the Mahao faction can also use the courts to force his hand to push out Justice Mahase.
The judiciary seems stuck in the middle of a tit-for-tat battle between the ABC factions.

Hlaele says his application stems from what he believes is unconstitutional collusion between the acting Chief Justice and the Prime Minister to compromise his litigation against Thabane.
Those actions, he says, also “compromised the institution of the Court of Appeal”.

He complains about Justice Mahase’s angry letter to Justice Mosito in May after the Court of Appeal overturned her decision in one of the ABC cases.
In the letter Justice Mahase launched a stinging attack on Justice Mosito for allegedly interfering with her duties.
She was particularly concerned about the Court of Appeal’s decision in the past two sessions (April and May) to entertain appeals without the High Court’s consent.

She said the Court of Appeal was granting orders that interfere with her administrative powers as Chief Justice.
Hlaele tells the court that he found that letter to be in “bad taste” as it “amounted to an undue interference with the judicial function of the Court of Appeal and it bordered on contempt of court”.
He says Thabane then seized on the allegations in Justice Mahase’s letter and tried to use them to initiate impeachment proceedings against Justice Mosito.

Thabane mentioned nearly the same allegations raised by Justice Mahase as the basis of his move against Justice Mosito.
Hlaele says by acting in “common cause” Thabane and Justice Mahase violated the principle of separation of powers.
This was the first time in Lesotho’s history that a head of the judiciary and the head of government connived to attack “the decisional and institutional independence of the apex court”, he says.

Her attack on the Court of Appeal and her conduct in the ABC cases, he adds, has brought the judiciary into disrepute.
Hlaele insists that there is ample evidence showing that Justice Mahase breached her oath of office, adding the judge was so biased and compromised that she cannot remain a judge.

Staff Reporter

 

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