…Chief Justice’s lawyers accuse PM of creating a constitutional crisis and contempt of court
THE ongoing battle between Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara has taken another twist, with the latter set to resume her duties this week, in defiance of the former’s decision to suspend her from office.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane indefinitely suspended Justice Majara from office with effect from 11 September 2018.
The suspension paves way for a three-member tribunal to try Justice Majara over a litany of misconduct charges including her alleged failure to ensure the timeous delivery of justice.
His Majesty King Letsie III, acting on the advice of Prime Minister Thabane, has since appointed High Court judge, Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase, as the acting Chief Justice. King Letsie III has also appointed three experienced judges from Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to the tribunal to hear the misconduct charges against Justice Majara.
However, the lawyers representing Justice Majara have advised her to ignore the suspension and resume her duties as she jets into the country from an official trip to Australia.
Justice Majara, who left the country for the Commonwealth Judges and Magistrates Association meeting on 5 September 2018, is expected in the country tomorrow and her lawyers, Mei & Mei, have advised her to ignore the suspension by Dr Thabane and continue with her normal duties.
Justice Majara’s lawyers wrote to the government, informing them that they had would advise her to ignore the suspension and resume her duties as soon as she arrives in the country.
In their hard-hitting letter, the lawyers also accused Dr Thabane of precipitating a “constitutional crisis” with his “purported…advice to His Majesty to suspend our client notwithstanding the terms of the court order granted on 17 May 2018”.
“In terms of that court order, the Prime Minister has been interdicted from doing exactly that which has purported to do. It is clear that by advising His Majesty in the manner the Prime Minister has done, he is prepared to create anarchy and perpetuate a constitutional crisis.
“We confirm that we shall advise our client to ignore the purported suspension because it is a nullity at law. Our client will resume her duties upon arrival from an official trip and we hope that your clients will not abuse the state machinery to our client’s prejudice.
“In the meantime, we confirm we are taking instruction on whether or not our client should institute contempt of court proceedings and at the same time a declarator to be effected that the Prime Minister should be found guilty by courts of law for subverting the rule of law by acting in the manner he did.
“We wish to conclude that it is quite embarrassing for our client to be instituting contempt of court proceedings against state functionaries that are obliged to protect the independence of the courts in terms of section 118 of the constitution. In addition, we are quite certain that the actions of your clients particularly the Prime Minister have reached a level where they embarrass His Majesty the King. We do not believe that the scheme of the constitution was designed for that purpose,” part of the letter reads.
Justice Majara has also received support from Amnesty International who said her suspension undermined the rule of law and judicial independence in Lesotho as the decision was made despite court orders that interdicted the government from acting against her.
Amnesty further said that it was concerned that the government action “set a deeply worrying precedent in Lesotho”.
“An independent judiciary is important to ensure a functioning administration of justice for everyone, and respect for human rights.
“The suspension of the Chief Justice is a grave threat to judicial independence in Lesotho. The authorities must show restraint and respect human rights and the rule of law by immediately lifting Majara’s suspension and reinstating her as Chief Justice.
“We urge the authorities to respect Lesotho’s international, regional and national obligations relating to the independence and security of tenure of judges,” Amnesty International said.