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Court of Appeal sittings resume tomorrow

Nat Molomo/’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Court of Appeal, which took an unexpected hiatus last month after officials cited lack of funds, is set to resume its sittings tomorrow.

This was said by the Acting Registrar of the High Court, Pontšo Phafoli on Friday.

The Court of Appeal was supposed to begin its April session on 15 April. However, Ms Phafoli, the Public Relations Officer of the judiciary, ’Mabohlokoa Mapikitla and some staffers held a press conference on 18 April to announce the suspension of the session due to lack of funds.

The saga surrounding the suspension took a new twist a week later after the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mokhele Moletsane refuted Ms Phafoli’s claims that the apex court was suspended due to lack of funds for its operations.

Mr Moletsane said he was “shocked” by the suspension of the apex court session.

Although he did not know why it was suspended, he said there was no way this could have been due to lack of funds as the judiciary had been awarded the full M97 731 217 that it requested from the national budget to fund its operations.

He added that Ms Phafoli and other officers in the judiciary called a press conference last week to announce the suspension without his knowledge.

And on Friday, Ms Phafoli announced that the apex court will resume sittings tomorrow and expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Finance for playing a pivotal role in preparation for the sitting.

“The office of the registrar wishes to inform all the concerned that parties and the nation at large that the Court of Appeal will resume on Monday 13th May 2019 to Friday 31st June 2019 when judgments will be handed down,” Ms Phafoli said.

“We wish to express our gratitude to the Ministry of Finance for playing a pivotal role in preparation of successful sitting of the Court of Appeal.

“The registrar further appreciates the patience of everyone during this time and registers inconvenience that could have been caused by the postponement. We remain committed to delivering and administering effective justice to all.”

However, she did not divulge whether or not the Ministry of Finance had released extra funding towards the sitting of the Court of Appeal.

The Law Society of Lesotho welcomed the move to resume Court of Appeal sitting saying it was in the best interest of the administration of justice.

For his part, renowned legal practitioner Advocate Zwelakhe Mda KC also welcomed the resumption of the apex court’s sittings saying it was “good, as it shouldn’t have been closed in the first place and it is worse when it is done by the state for justice delayed is justice denied”.

“The impact of the closure of the Court of Appeal is obvious, rights of litigants have been trampled upon,” Advocate Mda said.

The opening comes at a time when speculation is rife that the President of the Court of Appeal of Lesotho Justice Kananelo Mosito has or will soon receive a letter of suspension, an allegation which the government has since refuted.

According to Thabo Thakalekoala, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s press attaché, “these are just malicious and unfounded allegations intended to confuse the public and destabilise the judiciary”.

“The government would like to categorically refute these malicious allegations that the President of the Court of Appeal of Lesotho, Professor Kananelo Mosito will or has received a letter of suspension today (Friday, May 10).

“These are just malicious and unfounded allegations intended to confuse the public and destabilise the Judiciary.

“The government has full confidence in Prof Mosito in his capacity as the President of the Court of Appeal.

“The procedure governing the suspension and dismissal of any judge, Prof Mosito included is contained in the constitution of Lesotho. It is a very long procedure that involves the Head of State and can take months or even a year before it is completed.

“The Prime Minister as the head of the government cannot just wake up in the morning and decide to suspend any judge without following the procedure as prescribed by the constitution of this land. The government will always respect and observe the independence of the judiciary,” Mr Thakalekoala said.

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