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No going back on Mosito choice: Govt

 . . . as chief justice’s fate hangs in the balance

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE government will appoint Justice Kananelo Mosito as Court of Appeal president “come rain or shine” and will not be deterred by spirited efforts to derail his swearing-in.

This was said yesterday by Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights Minister Lebohang Hlaele while addressing scores of people in Maseru petitioning for Justice Mosito’s swearing-in.

“We, the 4×4 government have made a decision that come rain or shine, we are going to swear-in Mosito. We don’t have another candidate and we shall not be shaken in our decision,” he said.

Mr Hlaele also took a swipe at Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara’s controversial M27 000 per month rental deal, saying “something very big is about to happen in that regard”.

The procession started off from Setsoto Stadium to the High Court, with petitioners demanding Justice Mosito’s swearing-in as the top judge “with immediate effect”.

Justice Mosito was re-appointed as Court of Appeal president by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 1 August 2017, eight months after he was forced to resign to avoid impeachment over tax evasion charges by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led former government.

Two weeks after his reappointment, four lawyers lodged a High Court application challenging the validity of his appointment.

The four, Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, King’s Counsel Karabo Mohau, Motiea Teele and Zwelakhe Mda argue in their constitutional application that Dr Thabane did not follow due process when he advised His Majesty to re-appoint Justice Mosito. The case will be heard on Wednesday.

The protesters, who included legal practitioners and ordinary Basotho, delivered their petition to Mr Hlaele and Education Deputy Minister Ntoi Rapapa who was filling in for Justice, Human Rights and Correctional Service Minister Mahali Phamotse and his Principal Secretary Advocate ’Mole Khumalo.

Led by Advocate Thulo Hoeane, the petitioners assert that there is a deliberate delaying of Justice Mosito’s swearing-in.

They state that two months have elapsed since the High Court cleared him of 19 counts of tax-related criminal charges and set aside the findings and recommendations of an impeachment tribunal.

“Despite these legal hurdles being out of the way, there have been obstacles to the swearing-in…”

The target of their ire is Justice Majara, whom they accuse of collaborating with the lawyers in efforts to frustrate Justice Mosito’s swearing-in. They also claim that she is part of a team that includes outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions Leaba Thetsane, former attorney-general Tšokolo Makhethe and “some” High court judges which wants to “capture the entire judiciary for their personal and political battles”.

“That is why the whole syndicate has to be dismantled, and this must start with the swearing-in of Professor Mosito… with immediate effect.”

They argue that the four lawyers had not applied for an interim order to stay the swearing-in, yet Justice Majara went on to advise Prime Minister Thomas Thabane against it.

Justice Majara is “hell bent in granting stay through the back door to the four lawyers who did not even ask for it”, the petitioners charge.

They urge Dr Thabane to evoke his constitutional powers to ensure Justice Mosito’s swearing-in.

“Our demands to the Prime Minister are that the Chief Justice or whoever is acting in that capacity to swear in Professor Mosito not later than seven days from receipt of this petition, failing which she must be suspended pending impeachment proceedings to be preferred against her,” reads the petition.

They also state that procurement regulations were contravened by renting a house belonging to Justice Teboho Moiloa for Justice Majara in a M27 000 per month deal.

As a result, they want Justice Majara, Acting High Court Registrar Lesitsi Mokeke and Justice Moiloa suspended as “result of their involvement in the controversial residential lease agreement”.

“The Chief Justice has continued to enjoy her stay in this house despite the internal audit report indicating that it was wrong for the judiciary to enter into a lease agreement amounting to M27 000 while her statutory housing allowance officially is capped at M4 000 a month,” reads the petition.

“This is purely a corrupt arrangement designed to benefit Justice Moiloa and his wife for their support to the CJ while she worked with the four lawyers, the former AG and DPP to advance the political goals of their favoured politicians in the Liphiri (Pakalitha Mosisili-led previous) government.”

The petitioners also demand that the Law Society of Lesotho investigate the conduct of the four lawyers and Adv Thetsane, Adv Makhethe, and “certain legal practitioners of Webber Newdigate law firm especially one Mr Roberts.”

The petitioners also want the Law Society to investigate them “for their illegal involvement” in the impeachment of Justice Mosito. The petitioners state that setting up a “politically-motivated tribunal” “wasted” M14 million of taxpayers’ money.

They also call for an overhaul of the High Court “so that all judges must re-apply for their positions and be appointed on merit through a formally conducted job interview”.

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