22 September 2017

Lesotho: Court of Appeal Sitting in Limbo

Photo: Leadership
Court gavel

THE scheduled sitting of the second session of the Court of Appeal next month hangs in the balance in light of a pending legal challenge to the swearing-in of Justice Kananelo Mosito as president of the apex court.

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.

They also contend that the removal of his predecessor, Justice Robert Nugent, to accommodate Justice Mosito was illegal.

They also argue that Justice Mosito was re-appointed after being impeached for a pending tax evasion case before the High Court.

Their case in scheduled for hearing next month by the High Court in its sitting as a Constitutional Court.

The legal challenge resulted in the halting of Justice Mosito's swearing-in as president of the apex court.

Law Society of Lesotho president, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho, yesterday told the Lesotho Times the uncertainty was frustrating for lawyers who were worried their clients would be denied justice by the apex court.

"We are worried about what will happen with our clients' cases," he said.

"If the Court of Appeal does not sit as expected, it means people whose cases are pending in that court will wait a long time before knowing their fate.

"Some people have criminal cases pending before the Court of Appeal and they want to know if they are rightfully serving their sentences in prison or not."

Atty Mosotho also indicated that the lawyers' body wrote a letter to Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara two weeks ago complaining about the uncertainty over the sitting of the second session of the Court of Appeal.

"We wrote a letter to the chief justice and she told us take up the matter with the prime minister as the appointing authority of the president of the Court of Appeal.

"We found that answer very unsatisfactory.

"We are now left stranded," he added.

The Acting Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal, Lesitsi Mokeke, yesterday acknowledged the correspondence between the law society and the office of Justice Majara.

Advocate Mokeke said the issue had already been reported to the cabinet for direction.

"I have just talked to the PS (Principal Secretary Advocate Lebohang Mochaba) and she told me that the minister (of Justice and Human Rights Mahali Phamotse) reported the matter to the cabinet yesterday (Tuesday) and the cabinet will deliberate on the matter in its sitting next week.

"We will only know a way forward after next week's cabinet meeting," he said.

The Court of Appeal sits in two sessions. The first one was held in April this year and the second session is normally held in October.

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