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High Court in fresh turmoil

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Nat Molomo

MASERU — It never rains but pours for the Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal, ’Mathato Sekoai.

A fortnight ago High Court judges wrote a damning letter to Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla complaining about her conduct.

The judges accused Sekoai of being rude, arrogant and negligence of duty.

They demanded that she be redeployed to another department.

A few weeks before that Justice Lehohla had received another letter from chief magistrates and the Labour Court president complaining about Sekoai.

Now High Court and Appeal Court staff have added to Sekoai’s troubles by writing their own letter of complaint to the chief justice.

The chief justice is already under immense pressure from High Court judges to remove Sekoai from her position.

The letter from the staff only makes the situation worse.

By Friday night, High Court and Appeal Court employees were busy signing the letter which is expected to be handed to the chief justice on Monday morning.

The Sunday Express has seen a copy of the letter which has been copied to the Minister of Justice, judges, chief magistrates and the Law Society of Lesotho.

In their six-page letter, the employees accuse the registrar of leading “by dictatorship”.

They said Sekoai is “very arrogant and disrespectful and does not act under the banner of her office but personal vindictiveness”.

Sekoai, the employees said, “believes constructive criticism is a personal attack on her”.

They said she was using divide and rule tactics to run the courts.

“The Registrar discriminates between the assistant registrars and the judges’ clerks, from important things such as training and development to petty things such as which diaries should be used by who,” the letter said.

The letter alleged that Sekoai once expressed her contempt for judges’ clerks.

“Not only has her actions borne a bridge between members of the two cadres, there is an underlying tension that persists between members of these cadres as the Registrar works by divide and rule.”

“As a result, work does not progress smoothly and unfortunately the pinch is felt by the people we are supposed to serve”.

The staff accused Sekoai of creating positions for her “friends”.

“It is also because of her discrimination that some members of staff who are her “friends” (within Recorders and Assistant Registrars) receive preferential treatment concerning tools of trade, airtime, training, allocation of new positions and international trips,” the letter said.

“What is most disturbing is the fact that the Registrar and her “friends” discuss members of staff during meetings (gossip sessions)”.

“She makes no effort to hold staff meetings in order to iron out issues save (for) weekly meetings with the professional staff which is not beneficial as no one is allowed to say anything contrary to her.”

They said some of the professional staff no longer attend those meetings after they were told that their cotributions would not be considered.

She is alleged to have told some staff members that they “might as well flex their muscles”.

The employees also complained that Sekoai has for a long time not been providing them with necessary tools to carry out their duties.

“Court recorders are either not in use or at a brink of not working, printing paper and pens are not available making it an absurdity for legal practitioners to bring their own printing paper or memory sticks to receive judgments”.

“The chauffeurs do not receive their attire and clothing while their per diems are not processed timeously. Moreover, they drive cars with worn out tyres which is not only a security risk for them but for the Honourable judges as well.”

They said the switchboard has not been working for years, the intercom is hardly working and internal lines are “on and off”.

“It has been well over a year without sanitary bins in the ladies toilets; this is not only frustrating but embarrassing because one would have to carry the used sanitary pad in their bags until they find a place to dispose of it.”

“It is very unhygienic that even doing some things as nature would demand, one cannot wash their hands.”

The employees said Sekoai’s actions have created a “gravely bad working environment hence the low morale that exists among the staff and the negative work ethic”.

They recommended that Sekoai be “redeployed as she has failed to carry out her functions as an administrator”.

Sekoai told the Sunday Express she had not seen or heard of the letter and therefore could not comment.

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