Judiciary staff moan over working conditions

Judiciary staff moan over working conditions

MASERU – JUDICIARY support staff yesterday complained to Justice Minister Mokhele Moletsane about the unpleasant working environment in the courts.
Speaking on behalf of the complainants yesterday, Deputy Registrar of the High Court Realeboha Makamane told Mokhele that they are unable to meet all their needs because they are underfunded.

Makamane said they require M89 million, which they had asked for in the 2017/2018 budget, but they were allocated a paltry M9 million.
He said the judiciary in Lesotho is about to collapse due to lack of funding.
“We even had to reduce the Chief Justice’s entitlement money, we had to cut M2 000 of her entitlement to accommodate other things,” he said.
He said they come to the offices just to relax and stare at the walls as there is no equipment for them to do their work.

He said they often hear clients complaining about slow service delivery and pending cases at the courts not knowing that the money they are given as the judiciary only provides for their salaries.
“For the past two weeks there was no water at the courts as well as electricity. The situation at the courts will soon become unmanageable,” he said.
Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara was sitting next to the minister as Makamane was tabling the workforce’s grievances.

An emotional judiciary staffer, Phello Sehlabaka, who is an interpreter at the High Court told the minister that they are working under unbearable conditions.
Sehlabaka said the courts are “freezing cold in winter and we have to sit in the courts to wait to interpret for every case yet there are no heaters or air conditioners”.
“The court rooms’ roofs are leaking. One day I was nearly smashed by a brick in the office (because it fell from the wall),” Sehlabaka said.
“There is no enough equipment to do research on the case before translating it. What we do best is to sit in the offices waiting to be called to translate,” he said.
“There are no workshops nor study tours for translators to know how the world operates internationally.”
“We are neglected… we are warriors without armour.”

One cleaner said they are undermined and taken for granted because of their low level as assistants.
“I have been working at the judiciary for 10 years now but there is no equipment to ease my work. I reported a long time ago that the toilet of one judge is leaking and I have to wipe the water every morning using bare hands as there are no rubber cloves,” she emotionally said.

The Master of the High Court ’Matahleho Matiea said the main problem of the High Court is the low budget.
She said the budget allocated to the judiciary every financial year is lower every year.
“In the judiciary there is a lot of hatred and enemies as others think others are being catered for while others are crying daily,” Matiea said.
“There are no cars as they can’t be maintained due to lack of funds. We make ‘please call’ to clients as we can’t afford to call them and this is very embarrassing,” she said.
“We even have to use our personal money to call and deliver services to clients.”

In his response, Moletsane said in his few months in the Justice Ministry he has learned of their grievances fully.
He said he met with the Chief Justice who verified to him the grievances he had learned on his own and he assured the judiciary that the government would not sit and relax when such things are happening.

“Investment of government in the judiciary has deteriorated and that is a fact and as the executive we are going to work hard on this,” Moletsane said.
He said as for the restructuring of the judiciary, the government assured the officers that they are going to ponder over it.
He said there will never be stability in the judiciary if people will be focusing on the restructured grades.

“Only deliverance of the core mandate of the judiciary is vital. Restructuring is a very painful act because when it is implemented many people lose their jobs.”
“We are not going to entertain people who are working hard to divide the judiciary,” Moletsane said.
Chief Justice Majara also told Moletsane that allocation of funds is the main problem in the judiciary.
She pleaded with the minister to pay attention to their grievances and address them quickly before things worsen.

Senate Sekotlo

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