The law must take its course with­out de­lay

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

ELSE­WHERE in this edi­tion, we carry a re­port in which High Court judge, Tšeliso Mon­aphathi, rightly chas­tises of­fi­cers of court for the in­or­di­nate post­pone­ment of cases in­volv­ing high-pro­file sus­pects.

Jus­tice Mon­a­p­athi is spot on in warn­ing that, if the trend con­tin­ues, the rep­u­ta­tion of the courts in this coun­try will be left in tat­ters. The ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice in this coun­try is al­ready per­ceived in a neg­a­tive light.

There are per­cep­tions among the masses that the wheels of jus­tice are oiled to move faster and ef­fi­ciently against the poor and un­con­nected in the King­dom while ev­ery at­tempt is made to safe­guard the po­lit­i­cal elites from fac­ing ju­di­cial scru­tiny. In a coun­try which has ex­pe­ri­enced cor­rup­tion, theft and plun­der of state re­sources at epi­demic lev­els, it is dis­con­cert­ing that not a sin­gle min­is­ter or prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary has seen the walls of Maseru Cen­tral Prison. Yet it is th­ese peo­ple who make the de­ci­sions that have prej­u­diced this poor coun­try.

Wide­spread skep­ti­cism also per­sists re­gard­ing the com­pe­tence of the var­i­ous of­fi­cers of courts to ad­min­is­ter their work. There is sim­ply a myr­iad of chal­lenges fac­ing the ju­di­ciary which newly-ap­pointed Chief Jus­tice, Nthomeng Ma­jara, would have to re­solve quickly.

An ef­fi­cient, func­tional, im­par­tial and com­pe­tent ju­di­ciary, com­ple­mented by prop­erly trained and ef­fi­cient graft in­ves­ti­gat­ing agen­cies, is ul­ti­mately the cor­ner­stone of any democ­racy. We are not at all im­put­ing any­thing over the guilt or lack thereof of for­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter Ti­mothy Tha­hane. That’s for Jus­tice Mon­a­p­athi’s court to de­cide.

But for Mr Tha­hane’s lawyer, Qhale­hang Let­sika, to sim­ply walk into a High Court and ask for a post­pone­ment of the case, as he did this week, claim­ing he was not aware the case would pro­ceed on the ap­pointed dates is sim­ply un­ten­able.

Equally in­de­fen­si­ble is Mr Let­sika’s ar­gu­ment that the dates of 12, 13 and 14 Novem­ber set for the trial were merely provisional and he had not en­vis­aged the trial would pro­ceed as they had not been con­firmed. In fact the lat­ter ar­gu­ment re­flects badly on him as a pro­fes­sional. Isn’t it ev­ery lawyer’s duty to en­sure clar­ity and cer­tainty about when their client must ap­pear be­fore the courts?

In this case, the State ar­gued the dates had in fact been con­firmed and the judge in­sisted it was Mr Let­sika him­self who had sug­gested them in the first place.

In mak­ing his point, Jus­tice Mon­a­p­athi ut­tered the fol­low­ing poignant words: “It now seems to be the tra­di­tion to post­pone th­ese high-pro­file cases. ...Tax­pay­ers see us draw­ing our salaries for post­pon­ing cases and that per­cep­tion is for us to re­move.”

Sev­eral high pro­file peo­ple in­clud­ing Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­th­etjoa Mets­ing, for­mer Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Monyane Moleleki , for­mer Min­istry of Home Af­fairs Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Retšelisit­soe Khetsi and oth­ers are be­fore the courts over var­i­ous al­leged mis­de­meanors.

Mr Mets­ing has since gone to the con­sti­tu­tional court to seek re­lief over the “vi­o­la­tion” of his rights in the cur­rent at­tempt to charge him. Mr Moleleki’s cor­rup­tion and fraud case has dragged on due to his re­ported ill­ness. The deputy Demo­cratic Congress leader has nev­er­the­less been seen at po­lit­i­cal events yet a per­cep­tion had been cre­ated that he was on his death bed. If Mr Moleleki has speed­ily re­cov­ered, then his case must pro­ceed with­out de­lay.

The ex­pe­di­tious ad­ju­di­ca­tion of cases is ben­e­fi­cial to ev­ery­one, but mainly those who find them­selves in the dock. Co­op­er­at­ing in pro­cesses to have their cases finalized should be ad­van­ta­geous to all ac­cused. Un­less of course they know they have a case to an­swer and would rather not ap­pear be­fore the courts. In the case of politi­cians and se­nior gov­ern­ment bu­reau­crats, speed­ier ad­ju­di­ca­tion pro­vides them with am­ple op­por­tu­nity to clear their names and re­turn to pub­lic life with a mod­icum of re­spect.

Just as an ex­am­ple, South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has long faced about 800 fraud and cor­rup­tion charges. Even be­fore that coun­try’s na­tional prose­cut­ing au­thor­ity con­tro­ver­sially de­clined to pros­e­cute him, Mr Zuma had fought hard to avoid hav­ing his day in court.

The re­sult is that the taint of cor­rup­tion will for­ever stay with Mr Zuma and a dark cloud will al­ways hang over him to the detri­ment of the na­tion he leads.

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