Iveco shut down

Iveco shut down

MASERU-THE government has shut down the Traffic Mobile Court after pressure from taxi operators.
The decision came after taxi owners across the country parked their vehicles to protest against the court which they said was destroying their businesses.

Dubbed Iveco, the mobile court was hugely unpopular for imposing hefty spot fines that motorists and taxi operators said were arbitrary and unfair.
Within a few weeks the court had netted thousands of maloti in fines from drivers who bristled that it had become a fundraising scheme for the government.

Although meant to quickly deal with traffic offences that were clogging the traditional courts, the mobile court was seen as a “monster” on the roads.
A public outcry quickly ensued. Taxi operators complained that the court had made their businesses almost impossible to run.

Their attempts to persuade the government to take it off the roads came to naught. And this week they took matters into their own hands, parked their cars and threatened to harm anyone who tried to ferry passengers.
Commuters were stranded as there was virtually no taxi on the road.
Yesterday the government bowed to pressure and suspended the mobile court.

Transport Minister Tšoeu Mokeretla and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao said the court is suspended until further notice. Professor Mahao said the government wants to hear out the taxi operators.
“The entire cabinet agreed with us to suspend the Traffic Mobile Court operations but traffic cases will still continue in the (magistrates) courts,” Mokeretla said.

But while taxi operators might be celebrating this temporary victory some observers are asking if the government has the authority to suspend the court.
Advocate Letuka Molati, a local lawyer, told thepost that the decision “could be unlawful”.

Advocate Molati said the Subordinate Courts Order No. 9 of 1988 stipulates that the Justice Minister may, in conjunction with the Chief Justice, establish a court.
He said the Order gives the Chief Justice overall powers to direct the operations of all courts including the Court of Appeal.

This, he said, means what the government has done “is a serious attack on the independence of the judiciary”.
“The law gives the minister powers to only institute the court in conjunction with the Chief Justice,” Advocate Molati said.
“His powers end there,” he said, adding that once the court has been established the minister cannot suspend it.

“As to how the court will be operational is for the Chief Justice to see, albeit with the budget provided by the executive,” he said.
But Professor Mahao said there is nothing unlawful about the decision.
Professor Mahao made an example of a local court in Setleketseng which has been closed.
“That court was established by the executive and the executive closed it,” he said. Professor Mahao said the executive, the judiciary and the legislature are separate arms of government “but they work hand in hand”.
“We do not interfere with the judges when sitting in their judicial capacities but in anything that relates to administration, we work hand in hand.”

He described the inference that the executive cannot make a decision on the administrative operation of the courts as “a terribly uninformed interpretation of the law”.
“The executive establishes the courts. We established the mobile court, determined its operation and now we decide to suspend that operation.”
“This does not mean that we interfere with judicial independence. We do not enter into the court and decide cases.”

Professor Mahao said he sits with the Chief Justice every Wednesday “to discuss administrative issues, what we can do to help the courts carry on with their mandates”. “She tells me the problems so that I can help with the functionality of the judicial system, not cases,” he said.
“We, as the executive, have powers to determine where a court will sit, we can also terminate it.”

Meanwhile, the Maseru Region Taxi Operators (MRTO) chairman Mokete Jonas said the strike could have been avoided if the government had listened to their grievances earlier.

Nkheli Liphoto

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