Judge fights back

Judge fights back

MASERU – CHIEF Justice Nthomeng Majara wants the High Court to block Prime Minister Thomas Thabane from bringing impeachment proceedings against her. Justice Majara’s urgent application comes as Thabane prepares to recommend her suspension to the King.
The next step will be to recommend to the King to establish a tribunal that will decide if she is fit to hold office.

Thabane has already asked the Chief Justice to ‘show cause’ why he cannot recommend her suspension to the king.
This, after he accused her of abusing her office by renting a house way above her stipulated allowance and failing to hear cases.
Thabane also accused the judge of failing to resolve the former registrar’s cases and bringing the judiciary into disrepute by having a public spat with a minister.

The Chief Justice has since responded to the Prime Minister with an equally forceful letter denying most of the allegations.
The papers filed on Monday cite the Prime Minister, Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs and the Attorney General.
She is asking the court to declare that the government under the Prime Minister’s supervision violated section 118 (2) and (3) of the constitution by demanding her resignation.

She also wants the court to declare that the Minister of Law violated section 121 (5) of the constitution which “require fair procedure to be followed where the impeachment of a judge is contemplated.

Further, she wants the court to prevent the Prime Minister “from taking any or whatsoever measures against” her “in accordance with the constitution pending finalisation of these proceedings”. He also seeks to interdict the Prime Minister from recommending to his Majesty her suspension to appoint a tribunal that will hear her impeachment.

Meanwhile, Justice Majara has written a strong letter responding to Thabane’s call for her to explain why she cannot be impeached.
In response to the allegations that she was not hearing cases she said in April 2015 she presided over nine cases in the Court of Appeal and eight in October of the same year.

In March of the following year she presided in two appeals while in October she presided in five.
In February last year she heard over three appeals.
“Out of those 27 cases I wrote 11 of the judgments that were concurred with by the Court of Appeal Justices”.
She also said in 2015 she presided over 10 cases in the High Court “including applications, trials and an appeal from the magistrate’s court despite the fact that I had just been sworn into office and taken many other responsibilities over and above my judicial functions”.
She said in the following year she presided over 11 contested and 12 uncontested matters.
“They could be more,” she told the premier.

Last year she presided over 27 cases, which included 19 constitutional cases.
This year she has already presided over 12 cases.

She also denied that she had a public spat with the Law Minister.
He said “it is customary and obligatory for the Chief Justice to caution and/or warn members of the public and state officials against wanton and unwarranted attacks on the judiciary”.

“You will no doubt agree with me that my speech was cast in general terms on the aspect but became specific on the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs.” She argued that Thabane should have disciplined the minister when he attacked her in December last her but failed to do so because he is his son-in-law.

She reminded Thabane that under his stewardship the government made it clear that if she does not resign she would be removed through impeachment. “There is no doubt that whatever representations I will make to you will effectively serve no practical purpose because you have already, as government, taken the position that I must vacate office.”

The Chief Justice denied that she failed to deal with the issue of ’Mathato Sekoai, the High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar who was suspended six years ago. She said Sekoai was suspended by her predecessor Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla and she cannot resolve the issue because the matter is still before the courts. The case is pending in the High Court and the Chief Justice says she is waiting for the court to finalise the matter.

Staff Reporter

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