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Justice Molete laid to rest

  • amid glowing tributes from King Letsie III, PM Majoro and Justice Mahase

Nat Molomo

THE late High Court Judge Lebohang Aaron “Bra Lebs” Molete was laid to rest at his home area in Khubetsoana, Berea on Friday.

The burial was preceded by a state funeral service at ECoL Centre in Khubetsoana where speaker after speaker including His Majesty King Letsie III, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase hailed the departed judge for his outstanding contribution to the judiciary.

Justice Molete died on 30 May 2020 while being ferried to Willies Hospital for treatment for complications arising from a recent stroke. He was 61.

Court of Appeal President Kananelo Mosito and newly appointed Law and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao were also among scores of government officials, judicial officers, family members and friends who attended Justice Molete’s state funeral.

In a heart-warming tribute, King Letsie described the departed judge as a likeable character, saying their friendship spurned many decades and went back to their time together at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

The King urged judicial officers to strive to be like Justice Molete and deliver justice without fear, favour or prejudice.

“You should congratulate yourself Mme ‘Malebohang (Justice Molete’s mother) for being blessed by God with a son like Lebohang who grew up to excel in everything that he did throughout his life, be it in his academic studies or his duties as a lawyer and a judge,” His Majesty said.

“As a nation, we also thank Abuti (brother) Lebohang for his dedication as a public servant. He was a warrior who served this country with passion.

“I am proud to have known him as well. When I got to NUL, he was doing his fifth year of law. He was my brother as were all others who were with him at the time. As newcomers, we knew that among the intelligent ones in that Law Faculty, there was one Lebohang Molete. He left the university and I later followed suit.

“When he joined Weber and Newdigate (law firm), I made Webber my home as I took my friendship with him to his workplace. I apologise to Ntate (Justice Teboho) Moiloa who was the boss at the time if ever I wasted their time of work.

“We made Webber offices our meeting place and there we would plan our issues. I will not go into detail about our conversations there since Abuti Lebohang ended up a judge whose image I cannot tarnish,” His Majesty said to laughter from the mourners.

“As indicated by Mme ‘Maseforo (Mahase), the death of Ntate Lebohang leaves a huge gap in the judiciary. I know and have been advised by the Judicial Service Commission to sign and release the old judges to go and rest. I don’t want to mention them by name. (Now with Justice Molete’s death) that means there will be burden of work for those who will remain behind…Despite this, I urge you to continue and holdfast, to administer justice truthfully without favour or prejudice. It will be the best way to remember Ntate Lebohang Molete. God strengthen and comfort you all,” the King said.

Before the King’s speech, Justice Mahase had described Justice Molete as an iconic, hard-working and dedicated judge who contributed positively towards the betterment of the judiciary.

“Justice Molete was a natural choice to be the proverbial stone in the foundation of the Commercial Court. This (commercial) division is a “court of excellence”. Couldn’t it therefore only be fair that one of its founding fathers was the indefatigable perfectionist, Honourable Molete? Your lordships and fellow mourners, I am only asking this question rhetorically because there is no denying the fact that Honourable Molete was a judicial icon of unparalleled achievement,” Justice Mahase said.

“He was a judge of boundless intellect, ability, great listening skills and thorough knowledge of the law. He was meticulous in his job output, judgements and hardly had a judgement backlog. He had an analytical mind and was a humble servant of the judiciary. He wrote many a judgement that can only be described as watershed judgements.

“The late Justice Molete was appointed to head the judicial training committee. Unfortunately, he was hampered in realising his full potential by the alarming lack of funding for judicial training. A well-trained judiciary is the bulwark and a pillar that supports any democratic dispensation…”

Judge Molete studied for his Bachelor of Law (Law) and Bachelor of Laws (LLB Hons) degrees from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) from 1976 to 1980.

Dr Majoro urged Basotho to emulate Justice Molete and put the interests of the country first.

“Justice Molete leaves us at a time when most of us leaders have lost direction and are dividing the nation…

“I hope with his death we will be inspired to seize this moment to change Lesotho and rewrite our history. As leaders, we should remember our roots of a country founded on peace. On behalf of the government and myself, I pass my condolences to Your Majesty and the Molete family. Let us work for peace and ensure that we correct our ways with the Lord,” Dr Majoro said.

Justice Molete was born on 2 February 1959. He studied for his Bachelor of Law (Law) and Bachelor of Laws (LLB Hons) degrees from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) from 1976 to 1980.

He joined the legal profession in 1982 doing his articles (a legal apprenticeship) with prominent law firm Webber Newdigate. He rose through the ranks and became a partner in the same law firm in 1989.

He has also worked as a consultant on the World Bank’s “Doing Business” project.

By 1994, he was specialising in commercial cases, labour as well as patent cases.

He joined the High Court in September 2010 and became the first Mosotho judge to join the Commercial Division of the High Court in December 2011.

He was one of the presiding judges over the case of the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) internal auditor, Mr Thibello Nteso, who was murdered in 2017. The murder happened shortly after Mr Nteso had raised alarm over the misappropriation of M170 million at the power utility. The case is still pending before the High Court.

He also found himself at the centre of controversy over his handling of the controversial MKM Star Lion saga in 2018 when some of that firm’s fleeced investors demanded that he recuse himself from the case for allegedly “conniving” with its liquidators  after it was shut down by the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL).

MKM Star Lion Group was shut down in November 2007 by the CBL for illegally operating banking and insurance businesses. As a result, thousands of investors lost their money and the investors have a pending court case as they seek to recover their funds frozen by the CBL.

Justice Molete’s death comes barely a year since the passing on of Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane, who died in March 2019. Their deaths have aggravated the chronic understaffing in the judiciary which is struggling to deal with a huge backlog of cases estimated to be in excess of 4000.

After the enforced departure of former chief justice Nthomeng Majara, the deaths of Justices Hlajoane and Molete as well as the expected retirement of three judges at the end of the year, there will only be eight judges left to deal with the huge backlog of cases.  Judicial officials say more judges must be appointed forthwith.

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