CHIEF Justice Nthomeng Majara has accused the Thomas Thabane-led administration of irrevocably damaging her reputation by failing to give her a fair hearing and leaking confidential information regarding her proposed impeachment.
Justice Majara contends that Dr Thabane only appeared to give her an opportunity to respond to misconduct allegations after the damage to her reputation had already been done by the public attack on her by the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Lebohang Hlaele, in December 2017.
She further contends that the government aggravated the damage to her reputation by leaking to the Lesotho Times’ sister Sunday Express publication, Dr Thabane’s 27 April 2018 letter demanding that she ‘show cause’ why she should not be impeached over the alleged misconduct.
The misconduct charges include her 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.
Justice Majara makes the accusations in her heads of argument which she recently filed in the High Court as part of her application for an order to interdict Dr Thabane from recommending her suspension from office over a plethora of misconduct allegations.
Dr Thabane wrote to Justice Majara on 27 April 2018, requesting that she ‘show cause’ why she should not be suspended and why a tribunal should not be appointed to consider impeaching her on various charges of misconduct.
However Justice Majara, who is represented by Advocate Qhalehang Letsika KC of Mei & Mei Attorneys, fought back by filing a court challenge against Dr Thabane in May.
Dr Thabane, the Minister of Law, Lebohang Hlaele and the Attorney General, Haae Phoofolo are cited as first to third respondents respectively in Justice Majara’s lawsuit.
In the heads of argument filed last week, Justice Majara accuses Dr Thabane’s government of failing to giving her a fair hearing as stipulated in Section 121 of the constitution.
She argues that there are several process that have to be undertaken and a judge against whom allegations of unfitness to hold office have been made should be given a fair hearing at each stage of the processes.
Justice Majara argues that at the initial stage the Prime Minister ought to have made representations to the King (Letsie III) that the possibility of removing of a judge out to be investigated.
She further states that in addition to making such representations to the King, the procedure also requires that the proceedings against the judge be kept confidential. Justice Majara argues that the confidentiality clause was not respected as details of Dr Thabane’s letter were leaked and published in the Sunday Express.
“Apart from a hearing the law hedges the process (of removing a judge) with certain requirements of fairness and the most important for our purposes is that the matter at the initial stage shall be kept confidential,” Justice Majara states in her heads of arguments.
“It is apparent that the government of Lesotho violated all these principles in relation to the applicant.”
Justice Majara argues the negative publicity began with Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister Lebohang Hlaele’s attack when he addressed scores of Basotho who had staged a protest march to demand the swearing-in of Justice Kananelo Mosito as Court of Appeal President on 9 December 2017.
Addressing the protestors, Mr Hlaele took a swipe at Justice Majara saying she had to either resign or face an impeachment tribunal for corruption over the rental deal.
“The only advice that I have for her is to go,” Mr Hlaele said.
“She should resign. Otherwise, she will be put before a tribunal to face harsh punishment for stealing people’s money. It is a punishment befitting her actions because she has called it upon herself.” speech when addressing protestors in 2017.
Justice Majara further argues that the negative publicity against her continued when Dr Thabane’s ‘show cause’ letter of April this year was leaked to the media.
She said she was “compelled to write to Dr Thabane and complained that ‘I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 27 April 2018, which came to my attention on the same date in the evening’. I observe that the letter was leaked and published in a newspaper article in the Sunday Express newspaper dated 29 April 2018. I am worried that the correspondence in such a sensitive, confidential and private matter could have been leaked even before I had an opportunity to address its content”.
She submitted that this only serves highlights a pattern of behaviour of the government in denying her a fair hearing.
“Though the Prime Minister purported to give the Chief Justice an opportunity to make representations the damage to her reputation had already been done by the public attack on her by the second respondent (Mr Hlaele).
“In addition, the leak added to the damage…The damage to her (Justice Majara’s) reputation wrought upon her by the respondents is in all other circumstances irrevocable and she has no other remedy that could restore her reputation.”
Justice Majara also tore into the evidence submitted by the former Justice Minister, Mahali Phamotse, saying the minister’s denial that she pressured her (Justice Majara) to resign “rings hollow when one looks at what she admits and all the evidence”.
She said government’s version on how and when she offered to resign as the Chief Justice was “fatally flawed”.
“The fatal flaw arises here. The Prime Minister claims that in October 2017 the Chief Justice requested a meeting with him, whereat she indicated her intention to resign as Chief Justice of the High Court on her own violation.
“He says this was before the speech of the second respondent (Mr Hlaele) on 9 December 2017. The Prime Minister then says he asked the Government Secretary (Moahloli Mphaka) and the Minister of Water (Samonyane Ntsekele) to negotiate an exit package.
“The false statement was meant to deflect the conclusion that the Chief Justice was being forced out by the government through the agency and insults of the second respondent (Mr Hlaele),” Justice Majara said.
In his defence, Dr Thabane replied by saying that Justice Majara’s interests needed to be weighed against those of the public and the institution of the judiciary that she heads.
“What real harm will the Chief Justice suffer if she runs through the ordinary mills of a tribunal where she shall be accorded all the privileges and rights which attach to a judge placed before a tribunal?
“Is it not in her best interests to appear before the relevant tribunal with a desired end of clearing her name over her alleged misconduct which by her own admission attracted widespread criticism from the ordinary members of the public?
“Her interests in the circumstances of this case obviously have to be weighed against those of the public and the institution that she heads,” Dr Thabane said in his heads of arguments which were filed on Tuesday.