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Chief Justice slapped with ‘show cause’ letter

by Sunday Express
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…Justice Majara has seven days to respond to the letter

Staff Reporters

CHIEF Justice Nthomeng Majara’s tenure at the helm of the judiciary hangs in the balance after she was recently served with a letter asking her to ‘show cause’ why she should not be impeached, some government sources have said.

The issue appears to be a hot potato for some government officials who yesterday told this publication that they feared to comment lest they be accused of leaking confidential government information.

While senior government officials including the government secretary, Moahloli Mphaka and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mokhele Moletsane were evasive on the contents of the letter, Mr Moletsane however, conceded that the government expected Justice Majara to respond within seven days of receiving the letter.

He refused to say when the letter had been served on the chief justice and when the seven days would be up.

Asked what steps the government would take in case Justice Majara did not respond or filed a legal suit to challenge the letter, Mr Moletsane, “I am sure she is going to respond but what I cannot do is to tell you the contents of the letter because it is her letter and she is the only one who can divulge the information,” Mr Moletsane said.

Efforts by this publication to obtain comment from the chief’s justice’s office proved fruitless as the phones went unanswered yesterday. For his part, Mr Mphaka said he was in Durban and not privy to the latest developments.

A source close to the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said several issues were raised in the ‘show cause’ letter.

“The issues are basically about her conduct. Top of the list is the issue of the M27 000 housing allowance she gave herself although according to the law she is entitled to M4000,” the source said.

The source further said that the matter could have been resolved differently had the chief justice kept her promise to resign. The source said that the promise was made to the former Minister of Justice, Mahali Phamotse.

“Dr Phamotse engaged her and informed her that following the misconduct allegations, the government intended to impeach her. She offered to resign quietly but she later denied ever reaching a verbal agreement with Dr Phamotse about her resignation. This left the government with no choice but to act on the matter.”

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.

Last month, she clashed with Mr Mphaka over moves to oust her coveted post.

The two clashed over the contents of a notice from Mr Mphaka’s office which claimed that “peaceful talks” with Ms Majara over her exit from the judiciary had advanced well.

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.

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.

For her part, Dr Phamotse 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.

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 re-appointment 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.

Early this month, the campaign, the organisers of the ‘Hands off Mosito’ campaign implored Dr Thabane to immediately dismiss Justice Majara and three senior High Court judges for allegedly plotting with the opposition to topple the government.

The Hands off Mosito campaigners describe themselves as a “team of patriotic Basotho men and women who are increasingly irked by the deliberate delayed swearing in of Judge Kananelo Mosito as President of Court of Appeal after his appointment by a government gazette in terms of Section (98) sub section (1) of the constitution”.

Their attempts to have Justice Mosito sworn in have so far hit a brick wall in the form of a February 2018 Constitutional Court judgement which states that his appointment was unconstitutional as he found to be unfit for office by a duly constituted tribunal.

The campaigners have since trained their guns on Justice Majara and Justices, Tšeliso Monaphathi, Sakoane Sakoane and Teboho Moiloa who they accuse of working with the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Democratic Congress (DC) to frustrate government and ensure its ultimate collapse.

 

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