Judge moans of neglect

Judge moans of neglect

MASERU-Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase last Friday used Justice Lebohang Molete’s memorial service to berate the government for neglecting the judiciary.

In her eulogy to the late judge, Justice Mahase complained bitterly over what she said was the pathetic state of the courts in Lesotho.
She insinuated that Justice Molete had succumbed to the effects of a stroke because of neglect by the government.

Justice Mahase said judges were working in unsuitable offices that are cold and when it rains, they leak like sieves.
“Coldness, job dissatisfaction and a pile of work will always cause stroke,” Justice Mahase said.

thepost could not independently verify the judge’s claims.
Justice Molete, 61, died on May 30 and was buried in Khubetsoana last Friday. He had initially suffered a stroke that left him with significant health complications, according to a family spokesman.
The judge was given a state-funded official funeral, one of the highest honours a Mosotho can receive.

Justice Mahase said an overworked judge hears up to 11 different lawyers per day and has to prepare judgments after that.
She said their job is stressful and needs people who are well-taken care of and who also take care of themselves.

“We do not even have medical aid. I do not want to dwell on our salaries because they are a shame,” Justice Mahase said.
A judge in Lesotho earns about M40 000 a month.
She said judges are “sick due to the cold conditions in courts”.
“People joke with this matter and even name and shame us for it,” she said, emphasising that their work conditions hamper their job progress.
She said some of their documents get damaged when it rains.

The judge said she will not be surprised if more judges succumb to strokes because of the terrible conditions they are working under.
With the death of Justice Molete, the High Court now has only 11 judges.
Justice Mahase said they need urgent help to address these challenges adding if conditions are this bad in Maseru, they are wondering how courts are coping in the districts.

She also said they are being humiliated everywhere.
“It has been a culture in this country to humiliate courts,” she said.
Justice Mahase recalls that over 40 years ago when Justice Taufik Cotran was appointed Lesotho’s chief justice the then government would not listen to his pleas for improved courts.

She said when Justice Cotran demanded changes people claimed he was causing trouble.
Later between 1994 and 2002 when the late Justice Lebona Kheola was the chief justice still the government turned a blind eye to the plight of the judiciary.

She also recalled that during the tenure of Justice Mahapela Lehohla, the status quo never changed.
She also said the Acting Chief Justice Baptista Molai complained about the same problems in the courts.
Her predecessor, Justice Nthomeng Majara, also complained of the same things but the government never acted.

She said in those years “there was no photocopying machine, no typewriter but we were expected to do the job”.
She said up until now, nothing much has changed.
She told the newly sworn-in Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao that he had arrived at a bad time.

“You will visit us and hear our grievances,” she said.
“Even the one who will succeed me will still have to deal with the same problem.”
She said she does not know if their humiliations were a signal that they are not wanted.
“But to the best of my knowledge the judiciary is the third leg of government,” she said.

She said she was not aware if there were any ministries or departments that were being treated the same way.
“We need the High Court decentralised. I beg that we get more judges.”
She said Tšifa-li-Mali Complex should be opened for the High Court in the northern part of the country in Leribe.

She said the complex is beautiful and needs to be used.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Professor Mahao has asked Parliament to allocate over M242.4 million for his ministry, saying it is clear that justice is not being served to some Basotho in remote areas.
He said the ministry will hold radio programmes to inform Basotho in villages about legal aid.

Nkheli Liphoto

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