Court wants judge’s appointment documents

Court wants judge’s appointment documents

MASERU- THE Constitutional Court has ordered the government to produce all documents related to the appointment of a South African judge to be president of the Court of Appeal. The decision comes in a case in which four lawyers are challenging the removal of Justice Yvonne Mokgoro as Lesotho’s Court of Appeal President.

The government has claimed it does not have those documents that include a gazette and appointment letters.
The documents are a letter appointing Justice Mokgoro as Lesotho’s Court of Appeal President after Advocate Kananelo Mosito KC lost the position earlier this year following a court defeat he is now challenging.

The other document is a gazette appointing Lesotho’s Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane as acting president of the Court of Appeal after the government backtracked on Justice Mokgoro’s appointment.
Three South African judges, Justices Aubrey Ledwaba, Keoagile Matojane and Margaret Victory unanimously ruled that the government must submit the documents – under oath— on August 20.

They also ordered that the other supplementary documents should be handed to the court by September 10.
Justice Ledwaba, who is the presiding judge, has reserved judgement to give the court time to mull over the case.
In March, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane deposed to an affidavit saying King Letsie III never issued a gazette appointing Justice Mokgoro as the President of the Court of Appeal.

In this constitutional case, Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, Advocate Motiea Teele KC and Advocate Karabo Mohau KC are challenging the removal of Justice Mokgoro.  The lawyers filed the case after the government appointed Justice Hlajoane as acting president of the Court of Appeal.
They are seeking an order to block Justice Hlajoane’s appointment on grounds that Justice Mokgoro’s removal was unconstitutional.
Prime Minister Thabane, Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo KC and senior staff from the Government Printers also filed affidavits saying no gazette was issued to appoint Justice Mokgoro.

Justice Mokgoro herself conceded in a letter to Phoofolo that her appointment was never effected.
The three lawyers’ case relies heavily on what they say was the wrongful and unlawful manner in which Justice Mokgoro was removed from office to pave way for Justice Hlajoane.

In her letter, Justice Mokgoro said although she had proactively proceeded with the process of operationalising the Court of Appeal due to the urgency impressed upon her to hear the urgent matter when she was approached, she “certainly appreciates that the acting appointment had then and has now not been effected”.

“That was indeed my understanding,” she said in her letter.
Justice Mokgoro further said “under the circumstances. . . I withdraw my availability to serve as Acting President of the Appeal Court”.
“I have already halted any further proactive work to convene a bench to hear the urgent matter and further operationalise the Appeal Court for the April session.”

Thabane said the plan to appoint Justice Mokgoro “did not morph into a valid and operative government gazette”.
“The suggestion that she was appointed to that position is incorrect in all fronts,” Thabane said.
Thabane told the court that the three lawyers’ application “constitutes an abuse of this Honourable Court’s process”.
The three lawyers’ application relied on a gazette leaked from the Government Printers appointing Justice Mokgoro as the acting President of the Court of Appeal.

Thabane said they relied on “an unauthentic document”.
“The mainstay of their case is based on the document in issue (and they say) I did not exercise my constitutional powers properly and by reason of the alleged arbitrary removal of Justice Mokgoro,” he said.
“The error in the edifice which (the three lawyers) sought to construct is in its own foundation which is the unauthentic Legal Notice No. 13 of 2018,” he said.

Thabane said after Justice Mokgoro said she was no longer available, he thought it “desirable in the interest of justice that her contemplated appointment . . . be discontinued, and it was effectively discontinued internally after proper consultation with her, and she does not cry foul”.
Thabane said there is nothing that can prevent him from recommending Justice Hlajoane to the King for appointment as the acting president of the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, a Lesotho Correctional Service officer Ramahetlane Bereng has skipped the country fearing torture after the police took him for questioning in connection with the leaked gazette appointing Justice Hlajoane to the apex court.
Thabane had earlier told the court that whoever leaked any confidential information should be arrested and prosecuted.
He also threatened to get the three lawyers arrested for being in possession of the controversial gazette, which he said was not authentic.

Senate Sekotlo

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