Caswell Tlali & Limpho Sello
MASERU — The Minister of Justice, Mophato Monyake, has ordered Court of Appeal President Michael Ramodibedi to surrender his official vehicles.
The order comes barely two weeks after Prime Minister Tom Thabane asked Justice Ramodibedi to step down at a heated meeting.
Justice Ramodibeli has since refused to resign.
After the meeting Thabane reportedly instructed Monyake to withdraw Justice Ramodibeli’s cars.
And on Monday the ministry instructed that the cars be parked at the High Court office.
Justice Ramodibeli was informed of the decision. So were the Police Commissioner Kizito Mhlakaza, High Court Registrar Lesitsi Mokeke and Acting Chief Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi.
It is understood that Justice Ramodibeli has since refused to hand over the cars.
He is also said to have instructed some two senior lawyers to file a court application blocking the move.
The papers are currently being drafted and will be filed soon.
Since the order was issued he has kept the cars parked at his house in Ladybrand, South Africa.
On Tuesday Justice Ramodibeli was seen driving his personal car, a Range Rover.
Monyake told the Sunday Express on Friday that Justice Ramodibedi has parked the cars at his home in Ladybrand and the Lesotho government is unable to take them.
“We have not taken the cars away from the Court of Appeal President because he has parked them at his home in Ladybrand,” Monyake said.
“We have to follow certain procedures to take them because they are in another country,” he said.
Monyake said Justice Ramodibedi is currently without bodyguards too.
Monyake told this paper last week that the move to take away cars and bodyguards from Justice Ramodibedi was simply to “normalise the situation.”
He said since Justice Ramodibedi’s court sits in sessions it has always been a practice to give him the official car “only as and when he is at work not when he has completed his official duties in the country.”
Justice Ramodibedi completed his duties for the April session of the Court of Appeal on April 19 when judgments were delivered.
After that, according to Monyake, he is not on official duty in Lesotho.
Monyake said the former Justice Principal Secretary Retšelisitsoe Masenyetse “wrongly assigned an official car to the Court of Appeal President for hispermanent use”.
“We are only normalising the situation,” he said.
Monyake said it is well known that Justice Ramodibedi “is not a salaried person in Lesotho and is paid per job done, so he is only entitled to the official car when he is in Lesotho”.
“He is a permanent judge of the High Court in Swaziland where he has a car permanently assigned to him,” he said.
Masenyetse responded that Monyake is misguided to think that Justice Ramodibedi does not deserve to have access to state resources when the court is not in session.
According to Masenyetse Justice Ramodibedi has been duly appointed as the local president of the court of appeal and should therefore have his official cars.
“One of the developments in the legal milieu is that the improved systems in the High Court necessitate more frequency of the sitting of the Court of Appeal,” Masenyetse said.
“Justice Ramodibedi is readily available whenever it is required of him, so when you deprive him of resources you are paralysing the apex of the judiciary.”
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