Chief Justice suspended

Chief Justice suspended

MASERU – CHIEF Justice Nthomeng Majara has been suspended with effect from today.
She is however yet to receive her suspension letter as she is out of the country on official duty.
Justice ’Maseforo Mahase has been appointed Acting Chief Justice.

Justice Minister Mokhele Molestane confirmed Justice Majara’s suspension last night.
Moletsane however said Justice Majara will remain in charge of the courts.

The only reason for the suspension, he said, is to facilitate the appointment of foreign judges to hear a case in which the Chief Justice is challenging Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s power to advise the King to start impeachment proceedings against her.
Moletsane said the decision was based on section 121 (3) of the constitution which says a judge “may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause) or for misbehavior…”
He said the government felt that Justice Majara was not able to perform the functions of her office when she is conflicted by her case against the prime minister.

“She is supposed to appointed judges and allocate duties but surely she cannot appoint judges to preside over her own case because that will be a conflict of interest,” Moletsane said.
Molestane said the suspension shall remain in force until that case is finalized.

He said although some might view section 121 (3) as dealing with the removal of judges who are incapacitated the government believes that it also applies to Justice Majara’s case because her potential conflict of interest in the appointment of judges is obvious.
“That means she cannot perform a function in which she is a litigant.”

The minister also said government had “widely consulted with senior lawyers, locally and regionally, before making the decision”.
Thabane’s letter to Justice Mahase however says her appointment “shall be for the period until when the Tribunal appointed to investigate the question of the removal of the incumbent (Justice Majara) from this position has completed its work and made the necessary recommendations to his Majesty”.

The government wants to impeach Justice Majara over allegations of financial mismanagement and incompetenceThe prime minister has since asked her to justify why he cannot advise the King to start impeachment proceedings against her.

Justice Majara has is however fighting back through the court, challenging the prime minister’s power to give such advice to the King.
Thabane wants Chief Justice Majara out after she rented a M27 000-a month house from fellow judge Justice Teboho Moiloa.
The government says the deal was no procedural because the chief justice’s housing allowance is only M4000.
She is also accused of failing to clear the backlog of cases in the courts.

Staff Reporter

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