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Judge dismisses Matela’s request for recusal

 . . . as former LCA boss accuses judge of conniving with Majoro

Moorosi Tsiane

FORMER Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) CEO, Advocate ‘Mamarame Matela, has accused High Court judge Tšeliso Mokoko of doing Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s bidding.

This after Justice Mokoko on Friday dismissed Adv Matela’s petition to recuse himself from presiding over a case in which the LCA is seeking an order compelling her to return the Authority’s assets which she has allegedly held on to despite the expiry of her contract on 31 March 2022.

But Adv Matela did not take this well as she immediately called a press briefing where she lamented Justice Mokoko’s refusal to recuse himself from the case.

An unfazed Adv Matela told the briefing that she was not surprised by Justice Mokoko’s judgement as “he is working in cahoots with Dr Majoro” although she did not say what they intended to achieve.

But there is no love lost between Adv Matela, who was last month unveiled as the deputy leader of the Socialist Revolutionary (SR) party, and Dr Majoro since her acrimonious departure from the LCA.

Adv Matela says she felt let down by Dr Majoro after she had reported to him the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her “sexual predator” former boss at LCA, ex-Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Keketso Sello.

She said she wrote two letters to the premier dated 12 and 20 May 2021, wherein she narrated how Mr Sello had allegedly abused her and left her “shocked, humiliated and degraded”.

She got no response, she said.

Adv Matela said her party was not surprised by Justice Mokoko’s ruling.

“We are not surprised because this is how we have expected it would unfold. (Justice) Mokoko has been sent here by (Dr) Majoro to do his job, just like Keketso (former Communications, Science and Technology minister Sello) also told me that he was sent by the prime minister to fire me from LCA,” fumed Adv Matela, who is now the deputy leader of the Socialist Revolutionaries party.

“We are not going to stop here but we are going to continue fighting. Ntate Mokoko must respect Basotho and ensure Basotho respect the justice system of Lesotho.

“He is new here and he made the ruling based on what he has been promised. (Justice) Mokoko has come to do his father’s (Dr Majoro’s) job and as SR (Socialist Revolutionaries), we respect and understand the rule of law, so we will abide by the court decision,” she said.

In her court papers, Adv Matela had cited “pre-existing personal and professional relationships” between her and the judge.

Explaining the “pre-existing relationships”, Adv Matela said she had even been to the judge’s house on previous occasions when the latter’s children were celebrating their birthdays.

She also said the fact that Justice Mokoro’s wife used to work for Vodacom Lesotho in August 2019 when the mobile communications company was fined M8, 2 million for its failure to pay regulatory fees was reason enough to believe that the judge might be biased against her since she was the LCA boss at the time.

When delivering the ruling on Friday Justice Mokoko dismissed the case saying Adv Matela’s argument had no merit.

He said the reasonableness of Adv Matela’s apprehension must be assessed in the light of the oath of office taken by the judges to administer justice without fear or favour, and the ability to carry out that oath by reason of their training and experience.

“It must be assumed that they (judges) can disabuse their minds of any relevant personal benefits or predispositions… Without that confidence, the system cannot command the respect and acceptance that is essential to its effective operation. It is therefore important that a tribunal should be perceived as independent, as well as impartial, and that the test for independence should include that perception,” Justice Mokoko said.

He also denied Adv Matela’s claims that she had been to his house.

That his wife used to work for Vodacom had nothing with him and how he performed his job as a judge, he said.

“Also, it is a matter of a common cause that my wife worked at Vodacom when LCA fined Vodacom. But what has my wife’s work at Vodacom got to do with me? How is that connected with me presiding over this case?”

Justice Mokoko dismissed the application for recusal with costs.

The case will resume from 12 and 13 July 2022.

 

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