MASERU — The High Court is under fire after revelations that it received donations from individuals and private companies to fund its official opening ceremony on Tuesday.
Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla told the nearly 1 000 guests who attended the ceremony on Tuesday that part of their bill for drinks and food had been funded by nine individuals and private companies that had donated a total M44 209.
Lawyers who spoke to the Sunday Express this week said the donations create a perception that the High Court is not financially independent.
The lawyers said they are particularly worried because most of the donors are potential litigants.
They said the donations reflected badly on the courts’ integrity.
Four of the six individuals who contributed to the shindig are well-known government contractors and are prominent businessmen in Lesotho.
Tseliso Nthane, who owns Nthane Brothers Company which has won several government tenders over the years, donated M27 359 for the ceremony.
Sam Matekane, who made his fortune from government tenders won by his Matekane Group of companies, contributed M7 000.
Lebona Lephema who owns Executive Transport, which has also benefited from government jobs helped out with M5 000.
These Phooko whose Thescon company failed to finish the renovation of Setsoto Stadium, gave M250 towards the ceremony.
One Letsapo gave M1 000 while ‘Matumelo Matsinyane chipped in with M200.
‘Melesi Hotel donated M2 000.
Khali Hotel, which is known to have hosted some government workshops, contributed M500.
Amin Video & Vision, a production company, gave M800.
The donations helped pay the nearly M200 000 bill for the whole ceremony.
Nearly a thousand guests ate and drank to their hearts’ content at two separate venues in Maseru on Tuesday.
Judges, senior government officials and ministers and delegates were treated to expensive food and drinks at the Maseru Club from around 12pm to 4pm.
Low ranking guests like junior court officers also made merry at the CTC club.
Zwelakhe Mda, the president of the Law Society of Lesotho, did not attend the official opening but condemned the donations.
“As the Law Society of Lesotho we have repeatedly condemned those donations,” Mda said.
“We have criticised the High Court’s decision to continue receiving donations from people who are potential litigants.”
When a judiciary receives donations from individuals it gives the impression that some people can buy their way through the courts he said.
“This can still happen even if the court’s decisions are based on merit. The problem is that of perception.
“The court’s integrity must be beyond reproach. The courts are for everyone and not a privileged few.”
Prominent lawyer Haae Phoofolo echoed the same sentiments.
“The courts must not receive donations from individuals and corporates because it gives the impression that they are being leaned on,” Phoofolo said.
The conduct of the courts and their officers must be beyond reproach, he said.
Phoofolo said the buck stops with the government to provide enough resources to the judiciary.
“The judiciary must not beg for resources to do its work. To deny the judiciary resources is to deny the people justice.”
The registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal ‘Mathato Sekoai said she did not think there was anything wrong with the court getting donations from individuals and companies.
Asked if such donations would not influence the courts Sekoai said the “law will take its course even if those who donated money come to the courts”.
Her phone cut before she could answer further questions.
When the Sunday Express tried to call her again her number was no longer available.
After a few minutes the phone was available but she was not picking it up.
More than 20 attempts were made to reach her and in all instances she did not pick her phone.