High Court and Court of Appeal registrar ’Mathato Sekoai this week launched a fresh attempt in court to win back her job.
Sekoai was sent on forced leave in February last year as a bitter power struggle with High Court judges threatened to paralyse the operations of the judiciary. The decision to send her on forced leave came after High Court judges threatened not to hear cases if she was allowed back in office.
The registrar’s troubles began in November 2010 after High Court judges penned a damning document to the then chief justice Mahapela Lehohla alleging Sekoai was corrupt, disrespectful and arrogant. The judges also suggested that Sekoai was being shielded from censure. The judges demanded that she be transferred to another department or be fired. But perhaps more astounding in the case is that the learned judges did not provide any proof that Sekoai was corrupt and arrogant.
Attempts to appoint her a chief magistrate for the southern region were also blocked after magistrates resisted the move.
She was subsequently cleared of a charge of corruption by the anti-corruption unit, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences. We find it shocking that 16 months after Sekoai was sent on forced leave there has been no movement on her case. As she argued in her court papers this week, her life and career have virtually been thrown in limbo. There surely is something wrong with the manner in which Sekoai has been treated.
Sekoai surely has her own blemishes. Judging by the brouhaha that engulfed the High Court she appears to have created many enemies within the judiciary. No one appeared to like her at the High Court. However, whatever transgressions she might have committed in office pale into insignificance when compared to the injustice that has been visited upon her over the past 16 months. We think she has been wronged, big time.
We think she deserves to be treated fairly. When she was sent on forced leave we thought the government would quickly bring charges against her. None have been forthcoming. On that basis alone we think the government must either reinstate her to her position or find another task for her. Keeping her in limbo this long is surely a travesty of justice. We should also hasten to point out that that Sekoai has been receiving her salary and benefits while sitting at home.
We find this quite disturbing. Why should the government consider it prudent to pay the registrar a salary and benefits for not doing anything? This is a sheer waste of tax-payers money. This dispute is not going to go away by merely doing nothing. The government and Sekoai should step up attempts to resolve the impasse. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the attorney general as well as the Minister of Justice and his principal secretary, who were cited as respondents in the matter, should push for a solution to restore the legal rights of the registrar.
Any attempt to stall the case would represent another monumental attack on the rights of the applicant. We believe she has suffered enough. It’s time that she gets her life back on track. In light of this reality the government must push for an amicable solution that is agreeable to judges, staff at the courts and Sekoai. The two sides must find each other and resolve this dispute.
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