ColumnsEditorial

Judge’s appointment must be applauded

WE welcome the appointment of Justice Dan Akiiki-Kiiza, a Ugandan judge who has been seconded by the Commonwealth to deal with corruption cases.
The appointment could not have come at a better time. In recent months there has been unprecedented number of corruption-related cases being brought to the courts.
This is however happening at a time when the High Court bench is already overwhelmed with a huge backlog of cases.
With only 10 judges, it is obvious that the High Court does not have the capacity to deal with the increasing number of cases being brought by the prosecution.
If recent trends are anything to go-by then the High Court is likely to have more corruption cases to handle.
This is especially so because the new government seems to be living up to its pre-election promise to deal firmly with corruption, at least for now.
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) seems to have picked up renewed vigour in its fight against graft.
The anti-corruption unit seems to be working, although it admittedly needs to do much more to regain the people’s trust and confidence.
Still, there is evidence that it is doing something about corruption. It still needs to pursue suspected crooks with more vim, though.
But its efforts need to be complemented with a well staffed High Court bench.
The High Court also needs judges who have more experience in handling corruption cases. Justice Akiiki-Kiiza is therefore a much-needed extra “hand” on our understaffed High Court bench.
Justice Akiiki-Kiiza brings with him the experience the High Court needs to deal with complicated corruption cases.
When it comes to experience in dealing with corruption cases our bench appears thin. The point is that judges like other professionals need experience to deal with certain issues in their line of work.
Our judges lack the experience to deal with corruption cases because Lesotho has not had many such cases in the past.
Laws on money laundering, a highly sophisticated form of corruption, are relatively new in Lesotho.
The same can be said of complicated corruption cases involving high-profile people.
We have had many cases of bribery and fraud but very few, if any, on money laundering.
Very few have involved prominent people.
Yet apart from bringing experience we believe Justice Akiiki-Kiiza’s presence on the High court bench gives our local judges an opportunity to learn different perspectives from other African countries.
Exposure is important for any professional. That is why we are encouraged by Justice Monaphathi’s promise that Justice Akiiki-Kiiza will be understudied by a local judge.
That is good for Lesotho.
It will be a waste if the High Court were to allow the Ugandan judge to spend his eight months here without transferring some of his skills to a local judge.
After swearing in Justice Akiiki-Kiiza, Acting Chief Justice Monaphathi said it was common knowledge that Basotho are a closely related people, hence the need to bring in a foreign judge to deal with corruption cases.
We applaud the High Court for having the wisdom to manage perceptions before they become a problem.
It must however be remembered that the appointment of Justice Akiiki-Kiiza alone does not mean that the High Court will be efficient in dealing with corruption cases.
Much depends on lawyers whose reputation for concocting excuses to delay cases when they are ill-prepared is legendary.
The High Court workers who are forever grumbling about their work conditions and salaries also need to be motivated to make things move faster.
The justice system depends on them as much as it does on the lawyers and judges.
The other judges too need to be disciplined when it comes to quickly delivering judgments.
The prosecution too has to be thorough before bring their cases to for trial.
In short, the whole system has to be working if the High Court is to effectively deal with corruption cases.

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