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Judge recuses himself after mob storms office

Nat Molomo

MASERU — A judge presiding over the case involving a disputed property near the long-distance bus rank had to recuse himself after some respondents invaded the registrar’s office.

Acting Commercial Court judge Justice Molete on Friday recused himself in a case involving the Lesotho Public Motor Transport (Pty) Ltd and 19 respondents.

Justice Molete said though the group’s intention is not clear, it seems they were expressing dissatisfaction about a settlement made in a matter in which they were not involved but which has a bearing on their own case, which is also before him.

The judge dismissed as “utter nonsense” some of the accusations the unruly mob made.

They allege that the judge as the presiding officer was conniving with law firm Webber Newdigate, his former partners to obtain some bribe in the payments that were to be made to that firm by consent of their counsel.

In his recusal note Justice Molete told the court that on September 9, 2013, a group of people who were identified as  some of the respondents in the proceedings before the court invaded the “offices of my Registrar and Judge’s Clerk.”

“The invasion was so serious and disruptive that my staff could not handle them.” Justice Molete said, adding that a police officer was present at the time and also tried to restrain them without success.

“The crowd was so unruly and uncontrollable that their Advocate Shale had to be called to assist.

“He said apparently after the intervention of Mr Shale they gained their control, and later who approached the judge
in chambers and apologised on their behalf.

Justice Molete said although the apology was accepted, it “could not annul the idiotic behaviour of these lunatics,” the judge said.

He observed that they are represented by very capable counsel in these proceedings and instead of storming the court’s building and staff in that unruly manner, they should have approached their lawyers
to explain the situation to their satisfaction.

“In view of the above and for the safety of my Registry staff, and Judge’s Clerk, I am bound tor recuse myself from this matter as a whole,” the judge said.

The judge said it was further clear that “they have no trust in me and my impartiality based on their allegation and unfounded attack on my integrity.

“They have proved to this court that theirs is not a matter to be taken seriously as a commercial dispute to be brought before me,” Justice Molete lamented.

He said criminals do sometimes use commercial practice and companies to commit crimes and they behave like these people.

The judge pointed out that this is not a new dispute before the Commercial Court.

He said he had previously welcomed into his chambers the calm and law abiding contestants in these cases.

Sadly, one of the instigators in the whole saga was said to be an employee of the High Court Registry, who should have known better and not allowed himself to be part of this fracas.

“I want to sound a word of warning to those of the respondents who may not be part of this group to be aware not to
be drawn into any type of criminal or unlawful behaviour by these thugs,” he warned.

He said the unwanted and fanatical attack by these hooligans both on the staff and on the court’s impartiality leaves him no option but to recuse himself from the case.

“And I accordingly do so, I had thought I would consider hearing their intervening application in CCT/395, but I also decline to do so, I want nothing more to do with these individuals,” he said.

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