Justice Mahase’s toxic legacy

Justice Mahase’s toxic legacy

EMBATTLED Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase is finally out after two tumultuous years marked by acrimony.
The government has now appointed 60-year-old Justice Sakoane Sakoane as the substantive Chief Justice.

Justice Mahase, who has now been demoted, will revert to being a High Court judge.
This is a spectacular and embarrassing fall for a judge who has been at the centre of some of the most controversial political judgments we witnessed over the last two years.

Justice Minister Nqosa Mahao, who has never seen eye-to-eye with Justice Mahase, was scathing in his assessment of the judge.
He has described her as grossly “incompetent”.
We are however not surprised by the brutal put-down.

This is a man who, for over the last two years, has been at the receiving end of Justice Mahase’s controversial judgments.
Despite triumphing at the All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s elective conference in February last year, Justice Mahase fought in Thomas Thabane’s corner to thwart Mahao.

Time and time again, Justice Mahase was not ashamed to constantly throw banana skins on Mahao’s political path.
We are not surprised that Mahao made it his mission to end Justice Mahase’s malignant tenure as the Acting Chief Justice.
In Mahao’s opinion, it would appear the decision to sack Justice Mahase was important to ensure that the judge did not continue to vandalise Lesotho’s judiciary.

Justice Mahase’s ouster presents the government with a fresh opportunity to fix the judiciary.
This is a sector that has been dragged in the mud for too long. We need to see a complete break with that toxic past.

For over a decade, we have consistently reported about the infighting within the judiciary dating back to the days of the late Justice Ramodibeli and Justice Lehohla.
That trend continued under Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara who was booted out during Thabane’s tenure as Prime Minister.
The judiciary is a sector that has never known peace over the last decade.

Our politicians have shamelessly fought to capture the sector for their own nefarious ends.
To fix the judiciary, Justice Sakoane will need to stand up to politicians and resist being pushed around.
He will need a thick skin to stop the meddling.
Justice Sakoane, who joined the bench in 2014, comes in not just with a squeaky-clean reputation as a hard worker but also as a competent judge.

But most importantly, we are aware that Justice Sakoane is not encumbered by the baggage of the past. Much will therefore be expected from him.
To fix the judiciary, Justice Sakoane must quickly get the Commercial Court up and running again. The court was “shut down” following the deaths of its two judges, Justice Chaka-Makhooane and Justice Lebohang Molete, earlier this year.

We can only imagine how frustrated some Basotho are while waiting for judgments on their commercial disputes. Their lives are virtually on hold.
We know their pain.

It is critical that we get that court functioning again as soon as possible.
We are all aware of the usual complaints from judges about the shortage of judges on the bench.
Justice Sakoane must push for the appointment of a full complement of judges on the bench to ensure the smooth delivery of justice.

He must also lean on his colleagues on the bench, some of whom are notorious for sitting on cases, to expeditiously deliver judgments.
The days of judges sitting on judgments for years must come to an end. If a judge fails to deliver, he must be held to account.
That is not interference; it is called accountability.

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