Drama as judge grabs case

Drama as judge grabs case

MASERU-THERE was drama at the High Court this week after Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase allegedly tried to grab a case allocated to another judge.

It is alleged that Justice Mahase was insisting on hearing the case in which Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli is challenging Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s attempt to suspend him over a battery of allegations.
Justice Semapo Peete had earlier issued a temporary order blocking Thabane’s attempt pending finalisation of the case.
The case was then allocated to Justice Tšeliso Monaphati but Justice Mahase took the files.

Sources say even as Justice Peete was still handling the urgent application Justice Mahase was already demanding that she be briefed about the outcome.

The drama however started when she took the case from Justice Monaphathi and insisted on hearing it herself.
thepost witnessed Commissioner Molibeli’s lawyer and Thabane’s lawyers arguing about the issue in the High Court corridors.
Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, the Commissioner’s lawyer, could be heard saying Justice Mahase could not hear the case because she is an interested party.

He was telling this to Thabane’s lawyers, Attorney Qhalehang Letsika and Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane.
“No, the ACJ is clearly interested in this case and it is not wise for her to hear it,” Advocate Maqakachane said.

Attorney Letsika and Advocate Setlojoane retorted that it is standard practice for the Chief Justice to allocate urgent cases.
But that did no placate Advocate Maqakachane who insisted that Justice Mahase should not be involved in the case.

The three lawyers then entered Justice Mahase’s chambers where the argument continued. None of the lawyers could say what happened in the chambers but thepost understands that there was a heated debate over Justice Mahase’s recusal.

Justice Mahase is said to have finally relented and allocated the case to a panel of three judges.
Advocate Maqakachane refused to talk about his argument with the two lawyers when approached for a comment.

He also refused to talk about what was said in Justice Mahase’s chambers.
“That is no longer necessary, what is necessary to talk about is that the case has been reallocated to a panel of three judges,” Advocate Maqakachane said.

Advocate Setlojoane denied that there was an argument with Advocate Maqakachane.
“We agreed to go to the Acting Chief Justice’s chambers and there were no arguments and no voices were raised,” Advocate Setlojoane said.
“Maybe the arguments were made in my absence because I later left them.”
Attorney Letsika could not be reached for comment.
The incident could have further soiled Justice Mahase’s reputation.
She has been accused of taking undue interest in matters involving Thabane.

Some of her controversial decisions in Thabane’s favour have been reversed and criticised by the Court of Appeal.
There is a growing perception that Justice Mahase is doing Thabane’s bidding on the bench. Thabane is fighting to confirm her as the substantive chief justice before he leaves office in July.

But there is a strong pushback from some lawyers and politicians who believe he is trying to sneak in a nobbled judge as head of the High Court as an insurance against future legal troubles.

Staff Reporter

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