We need more honest judges!
IT’S not very often that one hears a judge speak candidly as Justice Molefi Makara did last week. The only other time I have heard a judge speak so candidly was when High Court judge, Justice Tšeliso Monapathi condemned Lesotho’s ubiquitous lawyers that run their law firms from the boots of their third and fourth-hand car imports from Japan or alternatively from Khubetsoana taverns.
Judges refrain from public commentary just in case they have to one day adjudicate on the issues they have commented about. That can easily open them to accusations of bias.
Let me illustrate that point by means of an example. Let’s say for instance Judge Makara once made a public comment that Thabo Thakalekoala is an “idiot”. Then for some reason, Thakalekoala brings forward a lawsuit one day to be declared the most handsome man in Lesotho. Far more handsome than his former boss who has since jettisoned him, Cyclone Tom (or more aptly Thomas Thabane). If Judge Makara rules against Thakalekoala, it opens the judge to accusations of bias as he would already have pronounced himself on Thakalekoala. That will in turn put the administration of justice into ill repute. The multitudes of women who think Thakalekoala is better looking than Thabane, or than any other man who God has put on this earth, will probably throng Judge Makara’s office and accuse him of bias.
So, it is only in rare cases that judges speak openly. In most cases, they will try to be as general as possible. Unless of course they are commenting on the obvious like Justice Monapathi’s seminal comments against our many lawyers who have to supplement their income by setting up car wash businesses and selling muffins as they are just too many of them, making Lesotho another country of firsts with more lawyers than actual clients to represent.
Speaking at a recent anti-corruption symposium organised by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service ( LMPS), Judge Makara accused certain people of being above the law and essentially getting away with murder because the country’s legal system was weak.
“There must be clear political will to fight corruption and that should not be selective,” thundered the judge.
“It should not be that if today X is in power, all people who are close to X will enjoy their salutes and other accolades and only become victims when X loses power…….
“We should not start making X’s subordinates victims and begin realising that they were involved in corrupt practices when X steps out of office……if X’s subordinates are corrupt, they should be prosecuted while X is still in office….,” the judge added.
Please note that I have slightly adapted the Judge’s quotation so that the learned judge’s comments can make sense to the reader. The newspaper that originally published his quotes verbatim is known for writing in Sothonglish and shows little or no regard to the real Queen’s language. So it often misquotes people though I could understand the jist of Judge Makara’s comments.
Judge’s Makara’s remarks may have been too general but they are definitely instructive of the malaise saddling our Kingdom. There are guys here who are surely above the law. These are the untouchables. The judge made sure he did not mention any names. Indeed that is what a learned judge must do. Judges ought to be careful when they make remarks outside judgments for the reasons I have outlined above.
There is no prize for guessing the personalities that are above the law in Lesotho. Like Judge Makara, Scrutator is also going to avoid mentioning any names in this instalment. But I am sure we all know who these people are.
Some were being recently chased by Cyclone Tom for various cases of graft. Since the eviction of Cyclone Tom from power, these cases will now suffer still-births. Some of those who served under Cyclone Tom are now being pursued by Mr Size Two. Mr Size Two is determined to see his coalition survive its full tenure as he declared last week.
But let’s say the unthinkable happens and he also gets evicted from power, those his government have let off the hook will become victims again.
Equally in the unlikely event that Cyclone Tom returns to power, there can be no doubt that his first call of business will be to blow off those that have now been left off the hook. That surely isn’t what should happen in a proper democracy as Justice Makara hinted.
Crooks, thieves and thugs should be prosecuted for their misdeeds regardless of who they are serving under. Law enforcement agencies should not and must never apply the law selectively. But above all, judges should never be afraid to jail anyone who has committed crime regardless of whom they are.
Let’s take another frightening example. There is that guy who has become a law unto himself. He is the guy in the habit of ejecting prime ministers from their beds while they are busy screwing their concubines in the wee hours of day and chasing them across the borders after sniffing that he is going to be fired.
The guy will also not hesitate to moor down anyone who threatens his position. I am told that all the judges are afraid, very afraid of him. So he routinely ignores their court orders with impunity. The guy basically does what he wants, anywhere at any time. He is a law unto himself.
We need to do right things right. The judiciary must be fearless and professional. We must make entry into the legal profession a bit harder so we have fewer competent lawyers. Law enforcement agencies must be freed from political bondage. We must borrow a few tenets of harsh justice from Sharia. But above all else, we must have more honest men like Makara on the bench.
Justice Molefi Makara