…all in all, there are 21 hopefuls to fill eight vacant judges’ posts
FORMER prime minister Thomas Thabane’s daughter, ‘Mabatšoeneng Hlaele (nee Nkoya Thabane) and the country’s three chief magistrates have again applied to be High Court judges.
Advocate Hlaele and Magistrates ‘Matankiso Nthunya, ‘Makampong Mokgoro and Manyathela Kolobe are among 21 candidates who are vying to fill eight judges’ vacancies that were advertised by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on 29 October 2021.
According to a JSC circular dated 6 December 2021, they applied for the posts along with current ombudsman, Tšeliso Mokoko, as well as magistrates Itumeleng Letsika, Teboho Thoso, Motlatsi Kolisang Monyake Hlabanyane, Peter Murenzi and Thamae Thame. Other applicants are Nkoebe Ramabele, Molemo Monethi, Hopolang Nathane and ‘Malifelile Ralebese.
Six others have been nominated for the vacant posts. These are Kuili Ndebele, Tšeliso Bale, ‘Maliepollo Makhetha, Thuloane Ntlhakana, Moneuoa Kopo and ‘Mamotšelisi Khiba. The JSC circular does not say who nominated them.
Advocates Kopo and Khiba had been shortlisted for interviews when the JSC called for applications to fill two vacant posts earlier this year. However, the duo lost out when the JSC hired Realeboha Mathaba and Fumane Khabo as judges two months ago.
In its latest circular written by its secretary ‘Mathato Sekoai, the JSC “invites written objections by members of the public, civil society groups, legal practitioners, Law Society, Director of Public Prosecutions, Faculty of Law at the National University of Lesotho and churches on the applicants and nominees for the said positions”.
The circular indicates that from 6 December 2021 to 14 January 2022. The JSC will be vetting the applicants and nominees to ensure that they meet the job specifications.
From 17 to 21 January 2022, the JSC will come up with a shortlist and the names of the shortlisted candidates will be published on 27 January 2022. These will then undergo public interviews from 2 to 4 February 2022 and the successful candidates’ names will be submitted to His Majesty, King Letsie III on 9 February 2022 for appointment as judges.
Advocate Hlaele and chief magistrates Nthunya, Mokgoro and Kolobe will be hoping for a change of fortunes this time around. They were not even shortlisted when the JSC advertised and eventually hired Justices Mathaba and Khabo.
Their snubbing provoked a widespread outcry from legal practitioners, analysts and the Judicial Officers Association of Lesotho (JOALE).
“We do not know what criteria was used to shortlist six people and exclude others,” JOALE president, Peete Molapo, said at the time.
“I doubt there was any criteria in the first place. In the beginning, the recruitment process was transparent as people were given the opportunity to apply. But we were shocked when it got to the shortlisting stage.
“The shortlist is highly questionable because none of the magistrates to have made it. There are so many who qualify with over 15 years of experience and they ought to have been given the opportunity to prove themselves in the final interviews. Even in terms of education, most magistrates have masters’ degrees.
“This is why we say the criteria has shocked us, if ever it all it was there,” Magistrate Molapo said.
The Law Society of Lesotho was equally flabbergasted. Its president, Tekane Maqakachane, said they subsequently sought an audience with JSC chairperson and Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane to explain to them how the JSC arrived at the decision to snub prominent legal practitioners before eventually settling on Justices Mathaba and Khabo.
It remains unclear whether they got the audience with Justice Sakoane and whether their concerns were addressed.