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Court of Appeal convenes for urgent, special sitting

by Sunday Express
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Mohalenyane Phakela

THE Court of Appeal will tomorrow convene for special session during which it will preside over the application by murder-accused former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and others are seeking an interdict against the recruitment of foreign judges to preside over their trials as well as those of serving and former members of the security agencies as well as politicians.

The special session, which will also hear other urgent appeals, will run from tomorrow until Friday in Maseru.

The apex court bench will be made up of the court’s president Kananelo Mosito and foreign justices Philip Musonda (Zambia), Petrus Damaseb (Namibia) and Zimbabweans Moses Chinhengo and Tafuma Mtshiya.

Its ordinary session is only due in October after its first sitting of the year which was in May. However, the Judiciary’s Public Relations Officer, ‘Mabohlokoa Mapikitla, recently told this publication that this week’s special session was called due to the urgency of Lt-Gen Kamoli, former Defence and National Security minister Tšeliso Mokhosi and 14 others’ application to stop the recruitment of foreign judges.

Ms Mapikitla said the special session will also hear “other urgent matters”.

“The Court of Appeal normally has two sittings per year but there are times like this when a special sitting is called to deliberate on what would have been deemed by the court to be an urgent appeal,” Ms Mapikitla told the Sunday Express.

“The soldiers appeal is urgent in that their pre-trial conferences which will be conducted by foreign judges are expected to start in August therefore their appeal against such judges has to be cleared before then.

“There are also other urgent matters which will be enrolled in the week’s special sitting but at the moment I am not certain of the number of cases which will be heard in total. The foreign judges are expected to arrive over the weekend (yesterday and today) while the sitting will be from 22 to 26 July when the judgements will be delivered.”

Messrs Mokhosi, Kamoli and 14 others recently appealed to the Court of Appeal after their initial 15 February 2019 Constitutional Court application to stop the recruitment of foreign judges to try them was dismissed on 2 May.

Apart from the duo, the 14 other co-applicants are Major Pitso Ramoepane, Thabo Tšukulu, Mothibeli Mofolo, Mabitle Matona, Rapele Mphaki, Pitso Ramoepana, Lekhooa Moepi, Mahlele Moeletsi, Mahlomola Makhoali, Nthatakane Motanyane, Motšoane Machai, Liphapang Sefako, Nemase Faso, Tieho Tikiso and Litekanyo Nyakane.

They want the appointment of the foreign judges by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to be nullified on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. In their Constitutional Court application, they argued that the recruitment of foreign judges was unconstitutional because the government allegedly hijacked and interfered with the process which ought to have been conducted by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). They argued that the judiciary should have been let to do its own recruitment independently but the government interfered with the process so that it could secure judges who would convict them and hand down harsh sentences.

However, the Constitutional Court bench made up of Justices Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, Lebohang Molete and Moroke Mokhesi dismissed their application, saying the government acted within the constitution in the recruitment of the foreign judges.

In their latest apex court appeal, the 16 argue that the Constitutional Court misdirected itself when it dismissed their initial application.

Although Ms Mapikitla did not say which other cases the Court of Appeal will handle this week, it is likely that it will also preside over two appeals by the Law Society of Lesotho and the Professor Nqosa Mahao led faction of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC).

The Law Society of Lesotho wants the Court of Appeal to bar Acting Chief Justice, ‘Maseforo Mahase from presiding over their High Court application challenging the looming suspension of the apex court’s president Kananelo Mosito by Prime Minster Thomas Thabane. The Law Society argues that Justice Mahase should not be involved in the case in any way as she is the second respondent in the same case.

Embattled ABC deputy leader Prof Mahao and four of his ABC’s national executive committee (NEC) allies who were recently “expelled” by ABC leader and premier, Dr Thabane, have also appealed to the apex court to interdict Justice Mahase from presiding over their appeal against their expulsion from the ABC.

The other expelled ABC NEC members are Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson). They were “expelled” for alleged insubordination after they continued calling and addressing ABC rallies against Dr Thabane’s express orders.

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