Paralysis in courts as ‘go slow’ bites

Paralysis in courts as ‘go slow’ bites

MASERU- THE police say they could be forced to set crime suspects free following what they say is a “go slow” by magistrates.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli told a press conference on Tuesday that the police are facing a real crisis.
“We do not have enough space to keep them and at the same time we cannot take them to the courts because there are no magistrates to remand them,” Mopeli said.

“This means some of them may be kept in police custody for a long time, which is not desirable, while others we will have to release because we have no other option.”

Mopeli’s statement comes at a time when the government has expressed concern over the go-slow by the magistrates.
The ‘go slow’ by magistrates has seriously affected the delivery of justice in Lesotho.
The Ministries of Public Service and Justice have jointly pleaded with the magistrates to provide services to the nation.

The ministries’ statements were collectively triggered by what they referred to as a ‘go slow’ by the judicial officers.
But the president of the Judicial Officers Association of Lesotho (JOALE), magistrate Peete Molapo, flatly denied the accusation that they were on a go-slow.

Molapo said they were neither on a ‘go slow’ or strike.
However, Justice Minister Mokhele Moletsane yesterday told a press conference that they are aware of the grievances that the magistrates have raised.

He said they have asked the magistrates to return to work while their concerns are being addressed.
The magistrates have presented an array of grievances to Mokhele which they want addressed.
Mokhele said they had also met with High Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi, who was holding fort in the absence of the Chief Justice.

He said the magistrates should not compromise the administration of justice as their grievances were being addressed.
Mokhele said after the government heard the magistrates’ concerns, his ministry set up a joint task team with the Ministry of Public Service to resolve the grievances.

He said while they were still waiting for feedback, they were surprised to hear over one radio station that their problems were not yet solved.
Mokhele said they have now asked the Chief Justice and the Judicial Services Commission to plead with the magistrates to return to work while their concerns are being addressed.
He said they do not have direct powers to force judicial officers to execute their work as the Executive.
“What the magistrates have done is unacceptable,” Mokhele said.
Mokhele said the judicial officers’ concerns could not be solved over a short period of time.
The Minister of Public Service Joang Molapo said the government does not want to see Basotho being denied access to judicial services.
JOALE president Molapo denied that the magistrates are on strike.

He said cases are registered at the prosecution before they could pass onto them as the magistrates.
Molapo said their work as magistrates is not only to remand people but also to deliver judgements.
He said no single police officer had been told to go back by the magistrates because they are on strike.
He however insisted that magistrates were facing real challenges in executing their work.

He said when news broke last July that they were on a go slow “we were simply sitting in the common room to map the way forward”.
He said yesterday all the magistrates from across the country met in Maseru to discuss a document from the task team formed by the Ministries of Justice and Public Service.

He said they had resolved that some magistrates should remain in the districts to continue with their work.
Meanwhile, the Law Society of Lesotho has called upon the magistrates to continue with their constitutional mandate as their grievances are being addressed.
The President of the Law Society, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, said they had held a meeting with the Ministries of Justice and Public Service in an attempt to break the impasse.

Maqakachane said it would appear that the government is committed to addressing the magistrates’ grievances.
He however condemned the decision by the magistrates to embark on a “go slow”.
“Their conduct impacts negatively on the administration of justice. Their duty is to dispense justice according to what the constitution obliges them and to do so without fear or favour,” he said.

He said the Law Society has opened a platform for the two parties to solve their issues.
Maqakachane said the magistrates’ conduct seriously affects judicial operations.
“We can’t deny there are financial implications but the government is embarking on that and we are calling upon the government to (urgently deal with the matter) as the issue is of great importance,” he said.

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