Judges attacked

Judges attacked

MASERU – THE Minister of Sports Dr Mahali Phamotse has accused Lesotho’s judges of dabbling in politics in comments that triggered a furore at the multi-stakeholders’ conference on reforms in Maseru. She said the judges are so political that one can shop around the judiciary for a favourable judge to hear your case.
Phamotse was speaking during the first plenary of the multi-stakeholders’ National Dialogue at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre.
The session nearly came to a standstill as a result of her remarks, which were not well received by some.

Phamotse argued that the only way the judiciary could perform effectively is when judges stay out of politics and the doctrine of separation of powers is respected.
“Politics are within the judges and lawyers, and the sad part is that they affect their everyday job,” she said.
Phamotse, who is also the secretary general of the Alliance of Democrats, which is part of the current coalition government headed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, said she has become aware of the secrets of judges since she became a politician.

“I know everything about most of the judges, I haven’t told them, but I know what they are doing behind (the scenes). I know that a certain judge is of a certain political party and is capable of doing something for politicians,” the minister said.
She further shocked the plenary when she said judges receive bribes from politicians resulting in some cases ending up not being heard or being struck off the roll.
The facilitator to Lesotho dialogue and reform process, Justice Dikgang Moseneke said the judiciary should first accept it has a problem for a solution to be found.
“Lesotho has a low premium of justice, people have to accept that justice is an important tool to them. Lesotho cannot always import judges every time because of politics whenever there are cases,” he said.

Justice Moseneke said appeal judges should get support.
He said the Head of State is the one with the constitutional powers to appoint judges not the politicians.
Politicians, he said, should not interfere with the work of the judiciary.

Justice Moseneke said Lesotho does not have supreme courts which are stable hence the country should go back to the drawing board to ensure that judges act within the law.
He said most judges do commit crimes and act like they have all the powers because most people have no recourse against wayward judges.
The Principal Chief of Kueneng, Chief Lesaoana Peete, said the judiciary was working for its own benefit not for the benefit of the country.
He said most people are hurt due to the services they get from the courts, saying failure to punish perpetrators of crimes such as rape resulted in vengeance as people took matters into their own hands.

“I think rapists deserve life sentences. Imagine someone raping your daughter, your wife and mother and end up killing them,” he said.
Nkalimeng Mothobi, a former prisoner who was jailed for 17 years, explained how biased the judiciary is.
He said while serving his sentence, he got to know that for one to be freed, they should have connections within the court system.
Mothobi said if a suspect is rich “he is not jailed”.

“Our courts are not working properly. They do not obey the law. Some well-known suspects that have committed crimes are granted bail but those who are poor are denied the opportunity to get bail,” he said.

Mothobi said some suspects spend up to 12 years in custody awaiting trial, but judges often do not take the time already served into consideration when sentencing.
“All we need is justice and not political justice. We need justice for everybody,” he said.

Justice Minister Mokhele Moletsane said he does not deny that political polarisation has rocked and clouded national security agencies such as the army.
He said other sectors like the judiciary also have been affected by political polarisation.

“I have heard opposition parties making supporting statements about their preferred judges on the one hand while the ruling parties also make similar statements about their favoured judges on the other hand,” Moletsane said.

Itumeleng Khoete

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