Storm over new  acting Registrar

Storm over new acting Registrar

MASERU – TENSIONS are simmering at the High Court after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) appointed a junior officer to be the acting Registrar. Officers at the High Court told thepost that they were shocked when Pontšo Phafoli, an assistant registrar, was appointed to replace Lesitsi Mokeke as the acting registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Mokeke, who has been the acting registrar since the controversial suspension of Mathato Sekoai five years ago, is said to be on a two-year study leave but has not yet officially left the office. Phafoli’s appointment was confirmed at a JSC meeting held on Monday morning in Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara’s chambers. Her promotion has however triggered howls of protest among some judicial officials who say it deviates from the normal practise of making such appointments based on seniority.

Phafoli is number six in the ranking of registrars at the High Court and Court of Appeal. There are three other assistant registrars senior to her.
In addition there are two deputy registrars who the officials say could have been automatically appointed to Mokeke’s position.
As deputy registrars, Mojela Shale and Realeboha Makamane, are the most senior officers after the registrar.

“Such an appointment is unprecedented,” said one official who refused to be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media.
The official said he suspected the reason why the JSC meetings were postponed several times was because “the appointment is so controversial that it is inconceivable that it would not have raised a concern among members of the commission”.

He said the fact that Phafoli is Justice Teboho Moiloa’s assistant registrar has made her appointment “even more curious”.
“We know that there is supposed to be an inquiry into how and why the High Court is renting Justice Moiloa’s house for the Chief Justice,” he said.
“It therefore makes people ask why her in particular to take up such a strategic position at this time under these circumstances.”

The High Court is under fire for allegedly flouting procurement regulations when it rented the M27 000 house from Justice Moiloa for the chief justice. The rent is nearly seven times more than the M4000 Chief Justice Majara gets from government as housing allowance.
Speculation has been rife that the government plans to ask the chief justice to either resign or risk impeachment proceedings.
The chief justice is said to have intimated that she is open to an amicable separation.

Phafoli said she could not confirm her appointment as she has not received an official communication from the management.
thepost has been informed the JSC rejected the initial list of candidates that included only Makamane and Shale.
The JSC, sources said, requested what it called a “holistic list” that included other assistant registrars.

Meanwhile, the fate of Sekoai, substantive registrar remains undecided five years after her suspension. thepost understands that the government is trying to get her reinstated.

Staff Reporter

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