MASERU — Outgoing Law Society of Lesotho president, Zwelakhe Mda, on Friday said former High Court registrar ’Mathato Sekoai was caught in the cross-fire in a bigger fight between High Court judges and the chief justice.
Mda was commenting on the crisis in the judiciary while addressing the society’s annual general meeting before the election of a new council in Maseru on Friday.
He said the judges’ attack on Sekoai was in fact a veiled attack on Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla’s suitability to hold office adding the judges had however chosen to focus on Sekoai as she was the softer target.
“What came out clearly and un-attenuated was the fact that they accused Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla of gross incompetence with serious implications,” Mda said.
He added that the judges complained of “negative work ethic and low staff morale throughout the whole support staff with factions and gossip mongering abound”.
“This testified that the attack was on the head of the judiciary, the Chief Justice,” he said.
Sekoai, who had a long-running row with the judges and magistrates, has since been appointed deputy principal secretary for the Ministry of Justice.
The appointment ended months of bickering between the judges and Sekoai.
The judges in February refused to hear cases, demanding that Sekoai be sacked or deployed.
The judges accused Sekoai of incompetence, corruption, arrogance and insubordination.
The judges were later joined by magistrates who also downed tools in protest against Sekoai’s appointment as chief magistrate.
A few weeks later, lawyers boycotted the courts in solidarity with magistrates.
Mda said what had happened vindicated the Law Society which had for a long time warned of a “debilitating crisis in the judiciary”.
“Now mark my words. History will absolve me. There is no institution in the world that can succeed without strong leadership at the top,” Mda said.
“For as long as the present leadership in the High Court reigns supreme, crisis after crisis shall remain the order of the day,” he said.
He commended the Law Society for joining the magistrates’ strike in solidarity after the Judicial Service Commission transferred Sekoai to Mohale’s Hoek under pressure from the judges.
“This forced the JSC to reverse its decision and ’M`e Sekoai was absorbed in some other state department,” he said.
“Our solidarity protest action bore good results in expediting the resolution of the impasse.”
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