Law society supports Mosito
The Law Society on Friday resolved to support the appointment of King’s Counsel (KC) Kananelo Mosito as President of the Court of Appeal despite strong objections by five top lawyers.
The Society convened an urgent meeting on Friday morning after a government gazette proclaimed Advocate Mosito’s appointment was with effect from 15 January 2015.
Law Society of Lesotho president, Shale Shale, yesterday said delegates to Friday’s meeting had agreed to support Advocate Mosito’s appointment.
“We agreed to support the appointment.
“The general feeling was that since it was done within the parameters of the law, particularly Section 124 of the Constitution, there is no need to oppose it.
“But there was a suggestion that we should ensure the Society is involved in the decision-making process in matters of the judiciary,” he said.
Meanwhile, the five lawyers opposed to the appointment, KC Salemane Phafane, Zwelakhe Mda, Motiea Teele, Karabo Mohau and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, are yet to decide on their next course of action.
According to the lawyers, they do not doubt Advocate Mositio’s competence but are not happy with the timing and the authority making the decision, which they say has no powers to make such an appointment because it is a caretaker government.
According to a government gazette published on 15 January 2015, the appointment had been made by King Letsie III, “pursuant to Section 124(1) of the Constitution of Lesotho, and acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister”.
In addition to the five disgruntled lawyers, some political leaders have condemned Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for the appointment, which they say contravenes the Electoral Pledge (EP) signed by representatives of all the parties taking part in next month’s snap election.
The EP, among others, states all the signatories should “refrain from undertaking any actions that may undermine the stability of state institutions, including the removal, appointment, demotion or promotion of key officials within the state during the period prior to the elections, subject to due and legal processes being followed”.
Lesotho holds parliamentary polls two years early following the collapse of the Dr Thabane-led coalition government.
The government, which comprised Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane, came to power in June 2012 but failed to last its full five-year tenure after a bitter fallout between the premier and his deputy.
After the disintegration of the alliance, South Africa’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was appointed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to facilitate the holding of parliamentary elections on 28 February 2015 under the guidelines of the EP.
However, the various political party leaders are bitterly complaining about Dr Thabane’s alleged violation of the EP, and expected Mr Ramaphosa to address the issue when he came to Maseru on Thursday.
Meanwhile, in a statement released last month, the five lawyers noted why they were opposed to Advocate Mosito’s appointment: “We, the undersigned legal practitioners, have discovered with a sense of shock and dismay, that one of our colleagues has been tipped for appointment as President of the Court of Appeal.
“While we do not know the rationale behind this hurried appointment in view of the prevailing situation in the country, we wish to place on record our reservations and strong objections for the following reasons:
- The Court of Appeal is the highest court in the country and plays a significant role in the administration of justice. The hurried appointment is likely to bring the administration of justice into disrepute. As a profession, we have always maintained that appointments to the judiciary must be made on merit through a transparent and consultative process. In particular, we have always maintained that such appointments must be made in consultation with all stakeholders.
- We are reliably informed the colleague so tipped has been and continues to be the legal representative of the authority responsible for recommending his appointment. The perception created by this appointment particularly in view of this set of factual matrix is that it is done as a means of patronage.
- This appointment comes hard on the heels of the perception that there is a concerted effort by the powers-that-be to capture key institutions of state.”
The lawyers also argued Advocate Mosito’s appointment was being made by a government that did not have the authority to do so as it was only a caretaker administration.
The lawyers added: “We wish to observe that this appointment is made following the dissolution of parliament. Things being normal, the current government, by its nature, is transitional and should not be making key appointments.
“We also observe that the appointment flies in the face of decisions made in the Double Troika Summit of Heads of State and Government in Pretoria, South Africa, on 15 September, 2014.”
The lawyers also urged Advocate Mosito to decline the appointment, noting: “Accordingly, we advise our learned colleague who has been approached, to take a principled position not to accept this appointment.
“We wish to remind him that in countries such as Kenya, judges appointed in similar controversial circumstances have been forced to resign. It is a fate we do not wish to be visited upon our learned colleague.”
The lawyers again warned government against bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.
“We appeal to the powers-that-be to avoid bringing the administration of justice into disrepute and undermining the independence of the judiciary. This is because judicial officers serve an important role in ensuring human rights are protected and that all citizens have recourse in the courts of law in the event such rights are violated.”
Advocate Mosito, who was acting judge of the High Court and presided over Labour Appeal Court cases, is Dean in the Faculty of Law at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). He also runs his own law firm, KEM Chambers, whose head office is in Maseru.
His appointment as head of the judiciary comes almost nine months after the resignation of then office-bearer, Justice Michael Ramodibedi.
Justice Ramodibedi vacated the post in April 2014 after losing a case before the Court of Appeal, in which he wanted to stop impeachment proceedings against him instituted by Dr Thabane.
Dr Thabane had advised King Letsie III to establish a tribunal to investigate Justice Ramodibedi for possible misconduct he allegedly committed on 23 July 2013.
Justice Douglas Scott had been Acting Court of Appeal President since Justice Ramodibedi’s resignation.