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Sekoai poses headache for judiciary

By Staff Reporter

 

MASERU — The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has found itself in a quandary as it tries to find a way to deal with a lawsuit recently filed  by High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar, ’Mathato Sekoai.

Last week Sekoai who has been forced to stay at home since February last year filed an application in the High Court demanding that she be reinstated.

This after the JSC’s decision in February last year to transfer her to the position of chief magistrate fell through amid protests from magistrates.

The respondents are the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), the attorney general Tsokolo Makhethe KC as well as the Minister of Justice Mophato Monyake and his principal secretary.

On Friday the JSC filed a notice of intention to oppose the application but sources say there is no consensus among its four members on how to handle the matter.

The JSC comprises the Acting Chief Justice Tseliso Monaphathi, the attorney general, chairman of the Public Service Commission Mosito Mapetla and retired  judge Justice Gabriel Mofolo.

Lesitsi Mokeke, who is acting in Sekoai’s position, is the secretary and does not vote on decisions.

He is however the one who signed the notice of motion to oppose Sekoai’s application.

Questions have been raised as to why Mokeke filed the motion instead of the attorney general who is the government’s chief legal representative.

Sources have told this paper that this is because there is no consensus among the JSC members on how to deal with the matter.

The attorney general is alleged to be opposed to the idea of fighting the application because he will be going against his earlier advice to the JSC.

On March 13 this year Makhethe wrote to Mokeke saying Sekoai’s transfer was unfair.

“There is an unfair aspect of the transfer,” Makhethe said in response to a letter Sekoai’s lawyer had written to the JSC, demanding that she be reinstated within 14 days.

Makhethe said this was because the High Court judges on whose complaints Sekoai’s suspension and transfer were based had refused to substantiate their allegations.

In November 2011 High Court judges wrote to the then Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla demanding that Sekoai be transferred or fired.

They alleged that she was arrogant, disrespectful and corrupt but refused when the chief justice asked them to individually substantiate the allegations.

In his letter the attorney general asks if the judges’ refusal to substantiate their allegations meant that Sekoai’s transfer had no basis.

“The bottom line appears to me to be that in the event of some other judiciary-cum-executive administrative solution not being found quickly to take her out of the judiciary, she is entitled (on setting aside her transfer, which is a given) to resume her position of registrar,” Makhethe said.

The attorney general goes on to warn that Sekoai will soon file an application to nullify her transfer and seek an order for reinstatement.

He said he did not believe the application can be successfully opposed.

“It (application) cannot be seriously opposed, and we are back to where we left off initially, with the resultant chaotic situation which is bound to arise in the administration of justice in the court”.

The JSC’s situation is particularly tricky because its chairman, Justice Monapathi, is one of the nine judges who wrote the letter that led to Sekoai’s suspension.

Justice Monapathi too did not write a letter to substantiate his allegations against Sekoai as Justice Lehohla had requested.

Sekoai’s return might embarrass him and the other judges.

He will also have to work closely with Sekoai as the chief accounting officer of the courts.

Retired Justice Mofolo initially signed the judges’ letter but withdrew his signature, saying it was tantamount to “serving two masters” because he is also a member of the judiciary.

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