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High Court clears Mosito

 

…sets aside findings and recommendations of tribunal

Tefo Tefo

THE High Court of Lesotho on Wednesday set aside the findings and recommendations by a tribunal that investigated and recommended that the re-appointed President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Kananelo Mosito, was not fit to head the apex court.

This follows the government’s decision to withdraw the case in which Justice Mosito was accused of violating tax laws case in what could be an attempt to dilute a court case challenging his re-appointment.

The ruling by High Court judge, Justice Keketso Moahloli, confirmed a deed of settlement that was made between Justice Mosito’s lawyers and the office of the Attorney General to quash the findings of the tribunal that investigated him and advised King Letsie III to remove Justice Mosito from the apex court’s presidency last year.

Justice Mosito, who was re-appointed to the hot seat in August this year, was first appointed Court of Appeal president in January 2015. He succeeded Justice Michael Ramodibedi who had also resigned after losing a protracted legal battle to stop his impeachment for alleged abuse of office.

However, not long after Justice Mosito’s appointment, King Letsie III appointed a three-member tribunal in February 2016, at the advice of then premier Pakalitha Mosisili, to investigate him for allegedly failing to pay income tax between 1996 and 2014.

The tribunal was comprised of Chairperson, Justice Frederik Daniel Jacobus Brand, Justice Noel Victor Hurt, and Justice John Godfrey Foxcroft all from South Africa. The tribunal completed its proceedings on 20 October, 2016 and submitted its report to King Letsie III.

Justice Mosito resigned before a verdict was announced on his fate, citing alleged persecution by Dr Mosisili and Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe King’s Counsel (KC).

His Majesty then appointed Justice Nugent to succeed Justice Mosito.

Despite his re-appointment this year, Justice Mosito is yet to be sworn in after his reappointment was contested by four top lawyers who filed a constitutional appeal before the Constitutional Court arguing that he could not be reappointed because he was impeached on the basis of the findings of the tribunal.

Their court challenge is still pending before the courts of law.

The four lawyers – King’s Counsel Motiea Teele, Zwelakhe Mda, Karabo Mohau and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika – also contended that Justice Mosito had a pending criminal case relating to non-filing of his income tax return before the High Court.

Section 125 (3) of the constitution provides that: “An appointed judge may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause) or for misbehaviour and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section.”

Subsection four of the same section provides: “An appointed judge shall be removed from office by the king if the question of his removal has been referred by the king to a tribunal appointed under subsection (5) and the tribunal has advised the king that the appointed judge ought to be removed from office for inability as aforesaid or for misbehaviour.”

The tribunal had recommended that Justice Mosito be removed from the top seat on the basis of his failure to submit such tax returns to the tax collection authority. He had been appointed president on 20 January 2015.

But Justice Mosito also resigned from the post on 13 December 2016 just before the tribunal could submit its report to His Majesty, alleging that he was being politically persecuted by the government under the leadership of Dr Mosisili.

The Law Society of Lesotho had lodged an application before the High Court seeking an order “reviewing, correcting and setting aside” the proceedings and findings of the tribunal before the tribunal submitted its report to the King in December last year.

The society lost the case and it appealed. The appeal was still pending before the Court of Appeal.

Justice Mosito also lodged a court case against the tribunal before the Constitutional Court, challenging the tribunal.

However, the latest High Court decision which confirms the deed of settlement by the Law Society, Justice Mosito and the government to quash the findings and recommendations of the tribunal is likely to remove the basis of the four lawyers’ challenge of Justice Mosito’s re-appointment.

The latest developments come at a time when the Court of Appeal second session, which normally sits in October, is still hanging in the balance because Justice Mosito has not yet been sworn in as the president of the apex court.

It is the responsibility of the president of the Court of Appeal to convene a sitting of the apex court.

 

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