Group says judge has soiled integrity of judiciary

Group says judge has soiled integrity of judiciary

MASERU -A HUMAN rights group has attacked Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase for “soiling the integrity of the judiciary”.
The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) also accused the judge of “unbecoming behavior” over the manner she has handled a bitter leadership row within the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.
The TRC’s Human Rights officer Advocate Lepeli Moeketsi told a press conference in Maseru last Thursday that Justice Mahase had clearly taken sides in the dispute.
He accused the judge of backing a faction aligned to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
“The TRC does conclude that the conduct of Justice Mahase is unbecoming of a judge of her caliber and indeed soils the integrity of the judiciary,” Advocate Moeketsi said.
He criticised Justice Mahase for getting embroiled in controversy through her judgments which favoured the Thabane faction.
Advocate Moeketsi cited a case in which the Koro-Koro constituency challenged the Thabane faction’s efforts to elbow out Professor Nqosa Mahao from taking part in elections to elect the deputy leader.

Justice Mahase dismissed the application. The decision was however set aside by the Court of Appeal which allowed Mahao to run in the elections.
Mahao won the elections for the deputy leader.
The Thabane camp was however infuriated by the victory and took the matter to court arguing the elections were rigged.
Justice Mahase is still sitting on that urgent application.
Two weeks ago, Justice Mahase stunned the nation when she nullified Mahao’s victory. She said the ABC had violated its own constitution when it elected Mahao. She said Mahao’s victory was therefore null and void.

The Mahao faction were never served with court papers despite their clear interest in the case.
Advocate Moeketsi described Justice Mahase’s judgment as shocking especially because the same judge had refused to hand down judgment on the earlier dispute.
He said some judges are so obsessed with concepts of judicial independence but say too little about their accountability.
He said they believe that judges are pious masters, infallible and sovereign, therefore they cannot be questioned even when their conduct has become seriously political behind judicial benches.
“All these actions brought the independence of the judiciary into question,” he said.

He bemoaned the way the executive has infiltrated the judiciary and the manner in which the Chief Justice and the President of the Court of Appeal are appointed.
He said the crisis in the judiciary escalated into a vicious crisis because of the murky manner in which the Chief Justice and the President of the Court of Appeal were appointed and removed.
“There is no process of scrutiny to assess competencies of appointed judges and as a result some of them could easily become political proxies of the Prime Minister who is the appointing authority,” he said.

The TRC said it wants the government to amend the law that established the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) so that it will protect the JSC from undue political influence of the executive branch particularly the Prime Minister.
And that Act should stipulate the commission’s mandate to include the recruitment and hiring of all judicial officers from the magistrates court up to the Court of Appeal.
Advocate Moeketsi further said the Act should also have an annual budget ratio that must be allocated to the judiciary and give the commission the power to monitor the conduct of all judicial officers, to discipline and dismiss when the need arises.

He insisted that such an Act is necessary in an environment in which the independence of the judiciary has been clearly eroded.
Moeketsi also criticised the Professor Nqosa Mahao faction for attacking Justice Mahase at their political rallies.
Advocate Moeketsi said the new ABC committee, led by Professor Mahao, had launched vicious attacks against Justice Mahase.
Advocate Moeketsi said this is likely to create anarchy and worsen the prevailing crisis in the judiciary.
“On a similar note we urge the leader of the ABC and Prime Minister to desist from attacking the Court of Appeal. It is his obligation to protect this highest court,” Advocate Moeketsi said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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