Govt ultimatum to Chief Justice
…resolve issue of suspended High Court Registrar
…judiciary committing an injustice against the ‘poorest of the poor’
JUSTICE Minister, Mahali Phamotse, has given Chief Justice, Nthomeng Majara up to the end of the month to resolve the issue of the suspended Registrator of the High Court, ‘Mathato Sekoai, saying the long-drawn out saga had resulted in an “injustice against the poorest of the poor” taxpayers who are burdened with paying two people for the same position including an acting registrar.
Ms Sekoai was suspended from her position as Registrar of the High Court and Appeal Court of Lesotho in February 2012 by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on allegations of corruption, arrogance and disrespecting High Court judges.
She was not reinstated to her position despite being absolved of the corruption claims by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences who wrote to her saying the allegations against her could not be substantiated.
Advocate Lesitsi Mokeke was subsequently appointed Acting Registrar- a development which led to the current scenario where taxpayers have to foot the bill of paying two officials for the same position since Ms Sekoai remains on the government payroll.
And in a strongly worded letter seen by the Sunday Express, Ms Phamotse, has directed Justice Majara to expeditiously resolve the issue, saying this is necessary to “avoid further economic harm on our taxpayers as well as preserving public confidence and trust in the capacity of the administration of our judicial system to resolve disputes on time”.
The letter dated 5 January 2018 and titled: ‘Reinstatement of the Registrar of the Court and Court of Appeal,’ was written in response to an earlier one Justice Majara had written to the minister on the issue.
Ms Phamotse did not give details of the issues raised by Justice Majara except but responded by saying while the ministry appreciated her efforts she was willing to make to resolve the issue, it however, felt that there was a strong “sense of injustice against the poorest of the poor who continue to pay two registrars for one position”.
“It is therefore in the public interest that this matter be resolved expeditiously to avoid further economic harm on our taxpayer as well as preserving public confidence and trust in the capacity of the administration of our judicial system to resolve disputes in time.
“In the event that your esteemed office and the Judicial Service Commission are unable to resolve this issue within this month, His Majesty’s Government shall advise itself against continuing to pay two persons for the position of Register of the Courts for the coming months,” Ms Phamotse wrote.
“The Ministry of Justice believes in the independence, dignity and effectiveness of our judiciary. In addition, accountability and responsiveness requires that His Majesty’s Government jealously protects the interests of the poor taxpayers and the financial resources as much as possible. It is therefore imperative that a balancing act is taken to salvage the situation at hand.
“The Ministry hopes your esteemed office will find this correspondence in order and wishes to thank you in advance for your usual cooperation and assistance in this regard,” the letter concludes.
For her part, Advocate Sekoai yesterday told the Sunday Express the long suspension had stifled her professional development, as she has been made redundant and staying at home instead of using her professional skills to contribute to the overall development of the country. She said she was ready to return to “work for her country” as soon as she was given the green light to do so.
“The long suspension has had an unpleasant impact not only on my professional but also private life. How do I explain to people that I am a career woman when all I do is stay at home all day and wait for your salary at the end of the month,” she asked rhetorically.
Advocate Sekoai was first sent on leave in December 2011 after judges accused her of corruption, insubordination, incompetence and arrogance.
At that time the-then Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla told her that she was being sent home to make way for investigations into the judges’ allegations against her.
On 20 January 2012, the then judges informed the chief justice that they were not happy with the way he had handled the investigation into Sekoai’s alleged misconduct.
They also accused the-then chief justice of trying to protect her by interfering with the investigation.
On February 6, 2012 advocate Sekoai was surprised when judges responded by going on strike when she returned from the forced leave. Despite failing to substantiate their allegations the judges insisted that they would not go back to work until she is fired or transferred.
Two days later the JSC informed Advocate Sekoai that she was being transferred to the position of chief magistrate. Advocate Sekoai challenged her re-assignment in a court case which was unopposed. However, judgement on the case is still pending.
With a monthly gross salary in the region of M38 000 per month, this means that the government has already spent in excess of M2, 736, 000 over the past six years on the salary of the suspended Advocate Sekoai.
Meanwhile the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Advocate Lebohang Mochaba, yesterday told this publication that the government wants to see the long-running saga on Advocate Sekoai’s employment resolved in the shortest possible time.
“When the current government came into office it discovered with shock that two registrars of the courts had been employed for one position for the past six years. But when we tried to find out why, we found there is a pending court case regarding one of them,” Advocate Mochaba explained.
“So the next step was to find out why the case has not yet been finalised after so long, which is why we approached the Chief Justice because court processes are under her office.”
Asked why Advocate Sekoai was not simply reinstated to her job since the corruption claims against her have been disproved, Advocate Mochaba said this had to be carried out by the JSC and their failure to act was the reason why government had decided to step in.
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