PROMINENT lawyer, Advocate Christopher Lephuthing, has called for criminal charges of “subversion” to be preferred against unnamed lawyers who he accuses of frustrating the planned recruitment of foreign judges to ease the backlog of cases.
While Adv Lephuthing did not mention any names, four lawyers – Zwelakhe Mda, Karabo Mohau and Qhalehang Letsika have been accused of sabotaging government efforts to bring normalcy to the judiciary.
The accusations stem from the quartet’s frequent legal challenges that have prevented the re-appointment of Justice Kananelo Mosito as President of the Court of Appeal.
Three of the lawyers have also filed a court challenge to prevent Prime Minister Thomas Thabane from impeaching Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and they have also opposed the recruitment of foreign judges to try the cases involving members of the security agencies.
Adv Lephuthing is one of the lawyers on Dr Thabane’s legal team in the case in which the premier is fighting Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara’s application to have Dr Thabane interdicted from recommending her suspension from office over a plethora of misconduct allegations.
The misconduct allegations include Justice Majara’s alleged failure to ensure the timeous delivery of justice as well as her controversial M27 000 per month housing deal which is way above the authorised limit of M4000.
The Chief Justice also petitioned the court to interdict Dr Thabane from advising His Majesty, King Letsie III to appoint a tribunal to recommend whether or not she should be impeached over the same allegations.
Adv Lephuthing told the Lesotho Times in a recent interview that there was an urgent need to deal with backlog of cases at the High Court and this necessitated the recruitment of foreign judges to remedy the situation.
He said it was also imperative for the government to appoint the President of the Court of Appeal to enable it to resume its sittings after almost two years.
He however, said the government’s plans to recruit foreign judges and to appoint the President of the Court of Appeal faced serious opposition from a clique of lawyers who should be charged with subverting the rule of law.
“I have been practicing since 2007 and when the outlook was promising and one would have thought that by now everything would be functioning smoothly but we are facing serious challenges in the judiciary,” Adv Lephuthing said.
“The problem of backlog of cases will not be resolved as long as there is this group of lawyers who do not want the foreign judges to preside over matters. It is evident that our High Court judges are overloaded with work and when the government gets assistance from the European Union and other development partners to bring in foreign judges, certain people band together to accuse the government of interfering with the independence of the judiciary.
“I think whoever is participating in the ploy of frustrating the recruitment of foreign judges must be held accountable for subversion of the rule of law,” Adv Lephuthing said.
Adv Lephuthing also said there was a “structural defect” in the composition of Judicial Service Commission where two out of its four members are deemed to be a quorum that can make binding decisions in the absence of others.
“We have serious challenges about the JSC’s structure and it does not make practical sense that the JSC does not include the Law Society,” Adv Lephuthing added.