THABANE PLOTS CHIEF JUSTICE’S REMOVAL
PM to advise the King to suspend Justice Majara Tribunal to be appointed to investigate misconduct allegations
PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane is set to advise His Majesty King Letsie III to suspend Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara over a litany of misconduct charges that include the failure to ensure the timeous delivery of justice as well as her controversial M27 000 per month housing deal which is way above the authorised limit.
Dr Thabane’s decision is contained in a letter he wrote to Justice Majara requesting her to ‘show cause’ why she should not be impeached over the alleged misconduct.
The Sunday Express has also learnt that the embattled chief justice vacated her controversial M27 000 per month rented residence in the Hillsview suburb in Maseru and moved to a cheaper M4000 house in Maseru West, two days after being served with Dr Thabane’s letter to ‘show cause’ why she should not be impeached.
“I have no doubt that Your Ladyship will agree with me that the allegations warrant an investigation and if proven, your removal in terms of section 121 (5) of the constitution,” Dr Thabane stated after outlining eight charges against the chief justice.
“I therefore intend to represent to the King that the question of removing the Chief Justice under this section ought to be investigated on the bases of foregoing allegations.
“In terms of section 121 (6) of the constitution, I intend to go further and to select the members of the tribunal as well as to advise the King to suspend the Chief Justice from the exercise of the functions of her office pending finalisation of the investigations as contemplated by section 121 (7) of the constitution.”
A copy of the letter which is dated 27 April 2018 and seen by the Sunday Express invites Justice Majara to make representations showing why she should not be removed from office on the basis of eight counts of misconduct.
On the first charge, the chief justice is accused of failing to preside over contested matters for a period of two years. She is accused of playing a relatively limited judicial role despite the huge backlog of cases at the High Court. Some senior judicial officials have said that the backlog of cases is as high as 4000.
Dr Thabane said that Justice Majara had failed to discharge her mandate despite being a sitting judge of the High Court and its administrative head who should also hear and determine the disputes presented by the litigants.
“Notwithstanding your obligation as a sitting judge of the High Court and as its administrative head to hear and determine the disputes presented by litigants, you have not presided over contested matters for a period of two years now and you have limited your judicial functions in court despite the backlog of cases before the High Court.
“Notwithstanding your obligation as the administrative head of the High Court and in your capacity as the chairman of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), you have omitted to take necessary disciplinary action against puisne (junior) judges who fail to deliver judgment timeously and thereby compromising the administration of justice in this jurisdiction and putting the High Court into disrepute.”
Dr Thabane also accused the chief justice of failing to present written judgements in 2017.
In another charge, Justice Majara is accused of engaging in a verbal spat with the Minister of Law, Lebohang Hlaele in her official speech at the opening of the High Court session in February this year.
At the time, Justice Majara revealed that she was contemplating legal action against Mr Hlaele who publicly accused her of corruption in connection with the M27 0000 housing rent deal in December last year.
Justice Majara described Mr Hlaele’s comments as part of the “increasing blatant and brazen attacks of the courts and the office of the Chief Justice”.
She further warned the nation and especially members of the executive against attacking the judiciary, saying this not only undermined the principle of separation of powers, but also placed the lives of judicial officers in danger.
Mr Hlaele attacked the Chief Justice when he addressed scores of Basotho who had staged a protest march to demand the swearing-in of Justice Kananelo Mosito as Court of Appeal Presi- dent on 9 December 2017.
Addressing the protestors, Mr Hlaele took a swipe at Justice Majara saying she had to either resign or face an impeachment tribunal for corruption over the rental deal.
“The only advice that I have for her is to go,” Mr Hlaele said.
“She should resign. Otherwise, she will be put before a tribunal to face harsh punishment for stealing people’s money. It is a punishment befitting her actions because she has called it upon herself.”
And Dr Thabane said Justice Majara’s statements had “put the entire judiciary into disrepute by staging a verbal spat with a member of the executive (Mr Hlaele), who is His Majesty’s appointee…thereby putting the judiciary into disrepute.
The premier further accused the chief justice of engaging private legal practitioners to represent her and JSC without the express permission of the Attorney General contrary to the constitution and the office of the Attorney General Act 1994.
Dr Thabane also alleged that Justice Majara had undertaken several “unchequered international travel trips at the huge and burdensome cost to the judiciary and (you) completely neglected your obligations as sitting judge, of hearing both contested and uncontested matters”.
The chief justice is also accused of failing to definitively deal with the issue of suspension of the Registrar of the High Court since her appointment as the chief justice in 2014.
In January this year, the-then Minister of Justice, Mahali Phamotse, gave Justice Majara up to the end of that month to resolve the issue of the suspended Registrator of the High Court, ‘Mathato Sekoai, saying the long-drawn out saga had resulted in an “injustice against the poorest of the poor” taxpayers who are burdened with paying two people for the same position including an acting registrar.
Ms Sekoai was suspended from her position as Registrar of the High Court and Appeal Court of Lesotho in February 2012 by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on allegations of corruption, arrogance and disrespecting High Court judges.
She was not reinstated to her position despite being absolved of the corruption claims by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences who wrote to her saying the allegations against her could not be substantiated.
Advocate Lesitsi Mokeke was subsequently appointed Acting Registrar- a development which led to the current scenario where taxpayers have to foot the bill of paying two officials for the same position since Ms Sekoai remains on the government payroll.
Another charge pertains to Justice Majara’s controversial deal to rent a house for M27 000 per month from a colleague Justice Teboho Moiloa. The amount is way above the M4000 statutory allocation for her housing allowance.
“Notwithstanding your obligation as the administrative head of the high court and in your capacity as the chairman of the judicial service commission, you have been indifferent to the allegations of your misconduct over the leasing of your official residential home from your puisne judge.
“You have not facilitated an inquiry into the matter hitherto, thereby compromising the integrity of the judicial service commission by failing to recuse yourself from the JSC and allowing for the inquiry over allegations of misconduct on your part and or that of the puisne judge whose house you rented.
“I therefore do hereby, respectively afford Your Ladyship this opportunity to make representations concerning the foregoing state of affairs and why I should not represent to the King that the question of removing the Chief Justice under this section ought to be investigated on the basis of the foregoing allegations as well as the suspension of the Chief Justice pending finalisation of the investigations.
“Take notice that the representations should reach me within seven days of your receipt hereof,” Dr Thabane stated.
Meanwhile, sources privy to this matter told the paper that Justice Majara vacated the house of Justice Moiloa last Monday.
When the Sunday Express visited the Hillsview home of Justice Moiloa, there were workers who said they were engaged to renovate the luxurious house after the Chief Justice vacated it on Monday.
“There is no one here. I mean no one is occupying this property. The person (Justice Majara) you are looking for has vacated this house and we were engaged by the owner to renovate it as you can see,” one of the workers said.
He said he was not aware of the exact day the chief justice and her family vacated the property as they only started renovations towards the end of last week.
However, well-placed sources told this paper that the Chief Justice vacated the property on Monday.
“On Monday, the chief justice packed and moved out of the M27 000 rented house to a M4000 rented house in Maseru West,” a source said.
Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara
CHIEF Justice’s house in Hill View. CHIEF Justice Nthomeng Majara.