GS, CHIEF JUS­TICE CLASH

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

AWAR of words has erupted be­tween Chief Jus­tice Nthomeng Ma­jara and Gov­ern­ment Sec­re­tary (GS), Moahloli Mphaka, over moves to oust the top judge from her cov­eted post.

The Chief Jus­tice is fu­ri­ous over a re­cent notice from Mr Mphaka’s of­fice in which he claims that “peace­ful talks” with Ms Ma­jara over her exit from the ju­di­ciary have ad­vanced well.

Jus­tice Ma­jara, who has thus far re­sisted force­ful at­tempts to oust her from her post, has hit back at the GS say­ing there was no way she could be said to be in­volved in any peace­ful talks when she has been the sub­ject of spir­ited snip­ing by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and politi­cians. She ef­fec­tively ac­cuses Mr Mphaka of telling lies on var­i­ous is­sues.

The notice from Mr Mphaka’s of­fice in­forms the pub­lic that Jus­tice Ma­jara, who has been un­der siege from some cabi­net min­is­ters who have openly called for her re­moval, is in “peace­ful talks” with the gov­ern­ment over her exit.

Mr Mphaka yes­ter­day con­firmed the au­then­tic­ity of the notice from his of­fice con­cern­ing the Chief Jus­tice. He said Jus­tice Ma­jara had since writ­ten back to him and he was yet to re­spond.

“We are in­deed hav­ing talks with the Chief Jus­tice. I am yet to re­spond to her let­ter but I’m sur­prised that (Jus­tice Ma­jara’s re­sponse) it is in the hands of a jour­nal­ist when it was sup­posed to be con­fi­den­tial,” Mr Mphaka said.

In the ini­tial notice con­cern­ing Jus­tice Ma­jara, Mr Mphaka’s of­fice wrote that; “The pub­lic is re­minded that the Chief Jus­tice is still in peace­ful talks with the gov­ern­ment per­tain­ing to her exit and the talks are at quite an ad­vanced stage, soon to be wrapped up”.

“You are there­fore im­plored to be pa­tient as these is­sues are be­ing treated with cau­tious­ness,” the notice con­cludes.

The notice also men­tions the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts in ad­dress­ing the huge back­log of cases be­fore the High Court and the Court of Ap­peal. It pro­poses re­me­dial mea­sures which in­clude the ap­point­ment of in­ter­na­tional judges to mit­i­gate staff short­ages on the bench.

The Court of Ap­peal has been in limbo due to lack of lead­er­ship. The gov­ern­ment’s plan to ap­point Jus­tice Kananelo Mos­ito to head that court was thwarted by a suc­cess­ful le­gal chal­lenge of his ap­point­ment in the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. Sub­se­quent ef­forts to ap­point an act­ing head of the court are also mired in more le­gal chal­lenges.

Ac­cord­ing to the notice from Mr Mphaka, the gov­ern­ment is work­ing hand in hand with the High Court to en­sure that all cases are heard and back­logs are cleared.

“The gov­ern­ment shall help the High Court to deal with the back-log of cases by seek­ing in­ter­na­tional judges, ac­cord­ing to the pro­vi­sions of the con­sti­tu­tion and other sup­ple­men­tary laws.

“In the same fash­ion, the gov­ern­ment and the of­fice of the Chief Jus­tice are work­ing on prepa­ra­tions for those cases to be heard by the Court of Ap­peal as pro­vided for in the con­sti­tu­tion.”

How­ever, Jus­tice Ma­jara took ex­cep­tion to the notice and penned a strongly-worded re­sponse to Mr Mphaka, dis­put­ing the claims that she was in­volved in cor­dial talks with the gov­ern­ment con­cern­ing her exit from the bench. She also scoffed at Mr Phaka’s claims that she was work­ing with the gov­ern­ment on a plan to clear the back­log of cases at the Court of Ap­peal say­ing she was never con­sulted on any of the is­sues raised by Mr Mphaka.

In­stead of a har­mo­nious work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween her­self and the gov­ern­ment, the Chief Jus­tice’s let­ter rather painted a glum pic­ture of a sit­ting duck un­der siege from a gov­ern­ment de­ter­mined to oust her at all costs. She cited open threats and in­tim­i­da­tion di­rected at her by for­mer Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Hu­man rights and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices, Ma­hali Phamotse, and the Min­is­ter of Law, Le­bo­hang Hlaele.

“It is not at all true that the gov­ern­ment is li­ais­ing with my of­fice about the cases be­fore the Court of Ap­peal. Noth­ing has been com­mu­ni­cated to me in con­nec­tion to such prepa­ra­tions if at all there are any in place,” the Chief Jus­tice wrote to Mr Mphaka.

“I en­gaged in talks with you af­ter I was put un­der pres­sure as a re­sult of threats levied against me by the for­mer Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Dr Ma­hali Phamotse and her Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Le­bo­hang Mochaba.

“Dr Phamotse told me to my face that the gov­ern­ment had made a de­ci­sion that it no longer wanted to work with me and if I did not re­sign, it would do all in its pow­ers to make my work a liv­ing hell and taint my name so badly that by the time it was done, no one would want to touch me as a pro­fes­sional.

“I am also re­mind­ing you of the state­ments and threats made by the Min­is­ter of Law (Mr Hlaele) at a demon­stra­tion held on 9 De­cem­ber 2017. I there­fore don’t un­der­stand how then these can be said to be peace­ful talks.”

On her part, Dr Phamotse yes­ter­day de­nied ever threat­en­ing Jus­tice Ma­jara.

“I never threat­ened her in any way. In­stead she is the one who told me that she could tell that the gov­ern­ment no longer wants to work with her and she even gave me the terms of an exit pack­age which I won’t dis­close as it is con­fi­den­tial.

“Other than that, there is no bad blood be­tween me and her and I have no per­sonal ven­detta against her at all,” Dr Phamotse said.

Jus­tice Ma­jara also ques­tioned the logic of the GS’S of­fice plac­ing highly sen­si­tive is­sues in the pub­lic do­main. She de­clared; “I have never seen, any­where in the world, where such is­sues are placed in the pub­lic do­main when the one di­rectly af­fected is not even given a chance to air her views, let alone be no­ti­fied as these are is­sues that need to be treated with con­fi­den­tial­ity and great cau­tion”.

She also de­nied that she was ever no­ti­fied of any plans to en­gage in­ter­na­tional judges.

“I write to state my as­ton­ish­ment, worry and de­spair per­tain­ing to a notice from your of­fice which bears no truth at all on the is­sues raised as I ex­plained my­self to you in our ear­lier tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion,” wrote Jus­tice Ma­jara.

“It is not true that the gov­ern­ment is work­ing with my of­fice on the is­sues stated in the notice. The truth of the mat­ter is that I am the one who vol­un­teered to ad­vise the gov­ern­ment that while it is work­ing on bring­ing in in­ter­na­tional judges (which I learned about through the grapevine), some sec­tions of the con­sti­tu­tion and other laws gov­ern­ing the coun­try should be con­sid­ered in or­der to avoid prob­lems which could em­anate in fu­ture. “I also ad­vised the gov­ern­ment to put in place all nec­es­sary lo­gis­tics and prepa­ra­tions ahead of the ar­rival of those judges so as to avoid hic­cups when they have to be­gin work.”

Jus­tice Ma­jara has en­dured a frosty re­la­tion­ship with the Thomas Tha­bane-led coali­tion gov­ern­ment ever since it came to power in the af­ter­math of the June 2017 snap na­tional elec­tions.

On 9 De­cem­ber 2017 Law and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs Min­is­ter, Le­bo­hang Hlaele, told pro­tes­tors in Maseru that Jus­tice Ma­jara should ei­ther re­sign or be “im­peached for cor­rup­tion”.

Mr Hlaele al­leged that the Chief Jus­tice was “cor­rupt” and gave her an ul­ti­ma­tum to ei­ther re­sign or face an im­peach­ment tri­bunal. The Min­is­ter charged that Jus­tice Ma­jara should be im­peached for “cor­ruptly” rent­ing a house for M27 000 per month from a col­league Jus­tice Te­boho Moiloa, a fig­ure “way above” the statu­tory al­lo­ca­tion for her hous­ing al­lowance.

Mr Hlaele made the re­marks soon af­ter re­ceiv­ing a pe­ti­tion from a group of Ba­sotho who had staged a protest to de­mand the swear­ing-in of Jus­tice Kananelo Mos­ito as the Court of Ap­peal Pres­i­dent af­ter his reap­point­ment in Au­gust last year.

The De­cem­ber protest and the sub­se­quent re­marks by Mr Hlaele prompted three prom­i­nent lawyers; Zwe­lakhe Mda, Karabo Mo­hau and at­tor­ney Qhale­hang Let­sika, to lodge an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion be­fore the Con­sti­tu­tional Court to block the re­moval of Jus­tice Ma­jara.

The ap­pli­ca­tion was filed last month and is still pend­ing be­fore the courts.

I am also re­mind­ing you of the state­ments and threats made by the Min­is­ter of Law (Mr Hlaele) at a demon­stra­tion held on 9 De­cem­ber 2017. I there­fore don’t un­der­stand how then these can be said to be peace­ful talks

Gov­ern­ment Sec­re­tary Moahloli Mphaka Chief Jus­tice Nthomeng Ma­jara

CHIEF Jus­tice Nthomeng Ma­jara. GOV­ERN­MENT Sec­re­tary Moahloli Mphaka.

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