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Chief Justice must deal with contested cases

THABANG Mohafa, a High Court Judges’ clerk, has challenged Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla to handle contested cases in order to help address the backlog of cases in the High Court.
In a memo sent to the Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal, ’Mathato Sekoai, Mohafa said it would help reduce the backlog if the chief justice could start hearing contested cases.
So far the chief justice has concentrated on dismissing uncontested cases from the court roll.
We applaud Mohafa for his courage to speak truth to power despite the consequences it might have on his career.
History has taught us that men like Mohafa normally find themselves in hot water for merely reminding those in power that they are not beyond reproach.
It is our hope that the same fate will not befall Mohafa.
Far from disrespecting the chief justice, Mohafa is merely offering what he thinks is a solution to the mounting backlog of cases at the High Court.
He is suggesting a solution to a problem that has become endemic.
It’s a problem that has remained unsolved for more than 20 years.
There is no doubt that the backlog has helped deny or delay justice for many people in this country.
There are people who have been waiting trial for more than a decade.
The wheels of justice in this country have been known to be painfully slow.
Sometimes justice arrives when those that needed it the most are dead.
It cannot be denied that some efforts have been made to deal with this problem.
But what is clear is that these attempts have not done enough to deal with the crisis.
The number of pending cases continues to increase while the size of the High Court bench remains the same with only 11 judges, including the chief justice.
Mohafa is merely encouraging the chief justice to do his part in the battle to reduce the backlog.
We are told this is not the first time that the chief justice has been encouraged to deal with contested matters.
High Court judges, his subordinates, are reported to have requested him to do so sometime last year.
The law society said it has encouraged the same on a number of occassions.
We cannot understand why the respected judge has not started dealing with contested matters.
The small size of our bench and the ever-increasing backlog dictates that every judge contributes by dealing with cases.
The chief justice is no exception.
In fact being the most senior judge on the High Court means that Justice Lehohla is expected to get his hands dirty during a crisis like this one.
It is clear that his expertise as a judge is urgently needed at this time.
His predecessors were known for tackling difficult cases even though they were busy with other duties.
They were leading by example and Honourable Justice Lehohla should do the same now.
It is in the interest of the High Court, the very court he heads, that he does so.

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