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Highlights of power struggle within the judiciary

Court of Appeal President Justice Michael Ramodibedi has had a long-running row over superiority with outgoing Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla. Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last month said Justice Ramodibedi was equally to blame for the “mess” in the judiciary, a charge the judge denies. Here we list the major highlights and incidents involving the two judges.
1. September 2002: High Court Judge Mahapela Lehohla is appointed Chief Justice.
2. November 2002: High Court judge Justice Michael Ramodibedi is sworn-in as Court of Appeal judge by Chief Justice Lehohla.
3. July 2008: Justice Ramodibedi is sworn-in as President of the Court of Appeal.
4. 2009: The battle-line over who is senior is drawn between the Chief Justice and the President of Court of Appeal. Cabinet rules in Justice Ramodibedi’s favour.
5. August 2010: Chief Justice Lehohla addresses the Southern African Chief Justices’ Forum on what he termed the politicisation of the judiciary. He attacks the Lesotho cabinet’s decision.
6. February 2012: The then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, on the advice of the Law Society of Lesotho, Judicial Officers Association of Lesotho and several prominent lawyers considers Chief Justice Lehohla’s ouster.
7. July 2012: Chief Justice Lehohla allegedly instructs his chauffer to overtake other motorists during King Letsie III’s birthday so that his car would be in front of Justice Ramodibedi.
8. October 2012: Justice Ramodibedi asks the Chief Justice to give him High Court judges who would hear cases at the upcoming January session of the Court of Appeal. The Chief Justice turns down the request
9. November 2012: Justice Ramodibedi asks Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in writing to intervene and the premier does not respond.
10. January 2013: Justice Ramodibedi cancels the Court of Appeal session after he failed to get judges from the High Court; He issues a scathing statement from the bench attacking Chief Justice Lehohla.
11. February 2013: The government and Law Society launch separate investigations after the Court of Appeal session is cancelled.
12. March 2013: Prime Minister Thabane asks Chief Justice Lehohla to go and he agrees.
13. April 2013: Prime Minister Thabane asks Justice Ramodibedi to go as well but he refuses. The government resolves to withdraw bodyguards, official cars and payment from Justice Ramodibedi.
14. May 10 2013: Justice Ramodibedi challenges the government in the Constitutional Court.

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