TEN High Court interpreters want all local High Court judges to recuse themselves from the case in which the former are seeking an upgrade of their professional position by the government.
The interpreters who on Monday filed an application before the court, allege their bosses could be biased when adjudicating on their claim.
In 2015 they filed civil summons in which they indicated they wanted the court to declare that “the proper position held by the Interpreters in the High Court of Lesotho was that of Principal Interpreters.”
The interpreters seeking the court’s intervention are Shabe Tsela, Molefi Thatho, Pheello Sehlabaka, ‘Matšita Rose Tšita, ‘Masuping Motšoari, Refiloe Kolobe, Nthabiseng Matsoso, Paballo Tilo, ‘Makeneuoe Mokhoro and ‘Malekhotso Mahloko.
They have cited the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Ministry of Public Service and the Attorney General as first to third defendants respectively.
Although the interpreters claim they had been underpaid by the government since 2005, they want to be paid the shortfall accrued starting from 2013 until the time when the court will have made a judgment in the case.
“That it is hereby declared that the interpreters in the High Court of Lesotho have been continuously been underpaid from 2005 to the date of finalisation of these proceedings and alternatively, the defendants are ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ underpayments from January 2013 to date of the judgment.
“That the defendants be ordered to fill in the position of Chief Interpreter that remains vacant,” reads part of the summons.
Concerning their professional upgrade, they seek: “that it is hereby ordered that the proper salary grade on which the Interpreters of the High Court of Lesotho should be paid at is grade I. In the alternative, the interpreters of the High Court of Lesotho should not be paid salary below grade G; in the further alternative not below F.”
Currently, the interpreters want the local High Court Judges to recuse themselves from the case as they express no confidence in their bosses.
In the recusal application they filed on Monday, Mr Thatho attached his affidavit in support of the application.
“The reasons for recusal of all the Judges of this Honourable court shall be immediately stated herein below.
“I aver (affirm) that originally this matter was allocated to Her Ladyship (‘Maseshophe) Hlajoane J. I submit that Her Ladyship Hlajoane J. recused herself from the word go.
“The reasons for her recusal was that Her Ladyship was at the time the Head of the Strategic Plan for the judiciary and she had an inside into the matter of our dispute.
“The matter was allocated to His Lordship Peete J. I aver that His Lordship Peete J. recused himself also. The matter was then placed before Her Ladyship (Nthomeng) Majara CJ (Chief Justice),” he stated.
He alleged they were informed by Deputy Registrar, whom he did not mention by name, that the Chief Justice had indicated that the case would be allocated to any of the judges who come from out of Lesotho who have been coming to Lesotho to preside over cases from time to time.
“I submit that it took a long time without the communication from the office of the Registrar or Chief Justice,” he added.
He further alleged they had instructed their lawyer to secure an appointment with the Chief Justice, but “the Chief Justice refused to meet with us and our counsel.”
However, he says they were later informed that a Judge from South Africa, whose name was not revealed to them, had been secured and the date of hearing would be set.
Mr Thatho said in the new turn of events they were told that the South African Judge would no longer be secured to preside over their case unless they lodged a formal application for recusal of the High Court Judges.
In the circumstances he avers “I submit that we apply for recusal of His Lordship and the whole bench of the High Court of Lesotho.”
He also alleges it would not be fair for the local High Court judges to preside over their case because they had bad feelings about them.
“The general view that the whole bench of the court has about us is that we are useless. It is therefore not proper that any of their Lordships should preside over our cases when they have already pre-determined it.”
Mr Thatho makes a damning revelation of what was resolved in one of the judges’ meetings. He alleges the judges considered them as “delinquent”, among other issues.
He quotes one of the resolutions as: “It was also resolved that Registrars are like Interpreters in their delinquent behaviour, raising serious doubts about their qualifications and/or competence and commitment.”
He says the above extract comes out of the minutes of the meeting the Judges held on 29 April 2016.
The lawyers are expected to appear in court tomorrow to determine how the application would be dealt with.