High Court registrar rejects charges

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MASERU — The Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal ’Mathato Sekoai says the allegations that she is unqualified to be the chief accounting officer of all the country’s courts are unfounded.

She was responding to a 28-page complaint written to Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla by the chief magistrates and President of Labour Court.

Chief magistrates and President of Labour Court are not happy that Sekoai will have supervisory powers over them after the restructuring of the judiciary.

Sekoai told the Lesotho Times in an interview yesterday that the crucial issue dealt with is the restructuring of the judiciary whose approach seems unwanted by the magistrates.

 

Below are excerpts from the interview:

LESOTHO TIMES (LT): The chief magistrates and the President of Labour Court are of the opinion that you do not qualify to supervise the judiciary because you lack credentials. What is your response to this?

Sekoai: Historically, the administrative leadership of the judiciary has been with the Principal Secretary for Justice. The Principal Secretary was also the Chief Accounting Officer of the judiciary. However, the Principal Secretary was never required to be a judicial officer in order to do the job.

Now, under the Administration of Judiciary Act the Principal Secretary falls off because the Act gives the judiciary administration to the Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal who is a qualified lawyer. I don’t understand why the learned chief magistrates say I do not qualify.

LT: Their argument is that you do not qualify because you have not been tried and tested for the job. You are required to have grown through the ranks of magistracy or been an experienced practising lawyer.

Sekoai: It is not a law requirement for a registrar to be a magistrate or a lawyer admitted to the bar. I wouldn’t be registrar if that was the criteria followed in appointing High Court and Court of Appeal registrars.

I am the registrar now because I met the specifications for this job. It is unfortunate that the learned chief magistrates missed the point on this issue.

LT: The magistrates compare Lesotho with other jurisdictions where a registrar is even called a judge-in-waiting because he/she is a seasoned magistrate or practising lawyer.

Sekoai: I can’t dispute that and it is what is happening in other jurisdictions. But in Lesotho, having not been a magistrate or an experienced lawyer does not disqualify a person from being appointed registrar.

LT: But, don’t you think it is a good thing to copy the good that is happening in other jurisdictions?

Sekoai: The good things, yes. The past two registrars were magistrates. But I want to emphasise that it is not a law requirement to appoint a registrar basing merely on account that he was a magistrate.

A person can be promoted from any other aspect of judiciary. It is incorrect of the learned chief magistrates to say I was appointed to the position direct from university. They know exactly well that I was an assistant registrar, deputy registrar until I was appointed registrar. The experience I have is enough for me to do the job.

LT: What do you say to the suggestion that a judge should be appointed to take this job?

Sekoai: The question of structure of the judiciary is determined by the Chief Justice. Neither the registrar nor the learned chief magistrates have the power to determine the structure. In this instance parliament has determined the structure and parliament is competent to do so.

LT: The magistrates say it appears that the Administration of Judiciary Act was predominantly a registrar-driven and inspired piece of legislation.

Sekoai: I will take this as a credit to me if the learned chief magistrates find me so powerful that they think I influenced parliament, such an august body.

I can only say it is sad that the learned chief magistrates view our parliament as a body that could be easily influenced by every Jack and Jill.

LT: The magistrates strongly opine that the Act is in conflict with the Constitution.

Sekoai: I can’t express myself on the constitutionality or otherwise of the Act. Only a competent court can do that.

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