Tributes for late Justice Hlajoane

Tributes for late Justice Hlajoane

MASERU – She may have been charming and caring, but those familiar with the late Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane knew better than to mess with her. Justice Hlajoane died on March 2, 2019 at Medi-Clinic in Bloemfontein after a long illness.
Extending his condolences to the family and friends of Justice Hlajoane, Attorney General Advocate Haee Phofolo described her as a no-nonsense judge when it came to her job.

He said although she was a sweet and caring judge, “she was a judge no one would mess with”.
“Everything she said was clearly heard and respected,” Phoofolo said.

He said Justice Hlajoane had a motherly touch that made her the go-to person for those who needed a shoulder to cry on.
Phoofolo said he first met Justice Hlajoane in the early 1990s.
“Then she was a magistrate and a very attractive one for that matter. From the time I worked with her, she was very helpful to everyone who was new in the environment,” he said.

He said Justice Hlajoane treated people with kindness and was always ready to assist when needed.
“She was so motherly, she treated me like her own son, right up to the end of her life, she was a mother to me,” he said.
Her chambers were like a home to many lawyers, he said.

“She had that motherly approach that was respected by everyone. Her personality was pleasant and made everyone comfortable to an extent that even young lawyers did not feel intimidated when they were wrong or done something wrong,” he said.
He said of all the women judges on the bench, she was the only one who was referred to as ’M’arona meaning our mother.
Despite the motherly touch, she was a tough judge who knew how to balance personal and professional relationships.

“Even if she was acting like our mother, she did all her work on time. She was one of a few judges who left few judgments outstanding. She would listen to the case and make sure that she delivered its judgment at the exact time and date she had set,” he said.
Phoofolo said Justice Hlajoane did not tolerate lawyers that came to court unprepared.

“Everyone respected her decisions, not that they feared her but because she was very clear and giving out reasons why she delivered a judgment in the way she did,” said Phoofolo.

He gave an example of a case in which the former Lesotho Defence Forces commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, who is now in custody, was still in the army.
He said then Lt Gen Kamoli was feared by almost everybody in the country, but Justice Hlajoane had the nerve to demand that he implements her ruling or he would face jail.

“There was a case where Judge Hlajoane ordered Kamoli to release a member of the LDF who was sick while in custody, she ordered him to release him and go home but Kamoli refused,” he said.
“Judge Hlajoane called Kamoli to court to explain why he refused to take her orders. However, he sent his junior to appear before her on his behalf.

She called him again and told him in his face that if he did not obey her order, she would send him to prison. The inmate was released,” recalled Phoofolo.
Her death, he said, would further burden the already struggling High Court which is struggling with a huge backlog of cases due to a shortage of judges.

“This is a huge gap in the High Court. We already have a shortage of judges hence we hired foreign judges to hear high profile cases. Now we are losing another one,” he said.
Advocate Letuka Molati said the death of Justice Hlajoane will never be forgotten because she was a kind judge who delivered her judgments timeously.

“All my cases which were before her would never take more than a year for judgment to be delivered,” he said.
“I believe even now in her file, there are fewer cases before her which need to be given judgments… if not two it is less than five,” Molati said.
The President of the Law Society, Tekane Maqaqachane, described the late judge as one who never gave up.

“She was so soft that even when you made a mistake, she would never be angry at you but show you your mistakes,” he said.
Justice Hlajoane had a long stint in the judiciary. She worked as a court clerk in 1972 and was promoted to senior clerk in 1980.
She moved up the ladder to become a magistrate before becoming the secretary of the Judicial Service Commission and the Registrar of the

High Court and Court of Appeal from 1993 to 2001. In 2001 she was appointed a High Court judge.
A memorial service for Justice Hlajoane will be held tomorrow. She will be laid to rest on Friday March 15.

Itumeleng Khoete

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