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New Mercs for High Court judges

Mantoetse Maama

MASERU — The government has bought new Mercedes Benz vehicles for the country’s 10 High Court judges, the Sunday Express can reveal.

Four of the E200 Mercedes Benz vehicles — all 2010 models — were delivered by Avis Fleet Services three weeks ago, High Court registrar ‘Mathato Sekoai confirmed.

The remaining six are still being manufactured in South Africa and are expected to be delivered in the “next two to three months but that depends on the manufacturer”, Sekoai said.

The retail price of the 2010 E200 model is M478 000.

This means the government has spent R4 780 000 to replace the High Court bench’s old fleet.

Sekoai said this expenditure was included in this year’s budget for the High Court.

The purchase of the vehicles comes almost a year after a transport crisis hit the bench.

Some judges were forced to either hitch-hike or use personal cars when their official vehicles broke down.

The problem worsened in March this year when the government told the High Court that there was no money to hire replacement vehicles for judges whose cars would have gone for repairs or routine service.

Last year the Sunday Express revealed how Justice Maseforo Mahase had resorted to using the taxis better known as “4+1” for months after her official vehicle broke down.

Since then she had struggled with her old vehicle.

Justice Tseliso Monapathi, the most senior High Court judge after the chief justice, found himself in a tight spot after he borrowed a vehicle from MKM, the company whose case he was dealing with.

Justice Monapathi later recused himself from the case but he explained that he had borrowed the MKM vehicle because his had not been repaired.

Justice Monapathi and Justice Mahase received their new official vehicles three weeks ago.

So did Justice Semapo Peete and acting judge, Justice Gabriel Mofolo, according to Sekoai.

“Transport for judges has been a huge problem,” Sekoai said. “Some judges have been coming to work late and at times they would not make it at all because their cars would have broken down.

“The new cars will deal with that problem.” Meanwhile, Finance Minister Timothy Thahane said the government had also bought a vehicle for Court of Appeal president, Justice Mathealira Ramodibedi, and Commercial Court judge, Justice John Lyons.

Justice Lyons has been using a hired vehicle since he was seconded to Lesotho by the Commonwealth in January this year. Justice Ramodibedi has also been using a rented car.

Thahane said this was the first time the government had bought an official vehicle for a Court of Appeal president.

Justice Ramodibedi’s predecessors, according to Thahane, were using rented cars because they were not staying in Lesotho. “It was unlawful for the High Court judges to be without official cars,” Thahane said.

“Others had no cars at all while others had their official cars broken and they had to be replaced.”

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