Shun politics of boycott

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AS expected the Law Society of Lesotho boycotted the official opening of the High Court on Monday in a move that vividly illustrated that that all is not well within Lesotho’s judiciary.
The Law Society last week urged lawyers to boycott the official opening of the High Court as part of a wider campaign to get rid of Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla.
The society wants Justice Lehohla impeached for appointing a former judge, Peter Cullinan, whom it accused of openly backing the government in his rulings.
It is worthy to note that the dispute has been simmering since 2004.
But matters came to a head in December last year when Justice Lehohla appointed Justice Cullinan to hear a contempt of court case filed against a newspaper editor last December.
The society felt slighted by this decision and called on all lawyers to boycott all court cases that were before Justice Cullinan.
On Monday, the society upped the ante when it called on all lawyers to boycott the ceremony.
It argued that the function served no “meaningful and progressive purpose to the legal profession other than to give credence of normalcy”.
Predictably, most prominent lawyers in Lesotho heeded the message.
It is the implications of this discord within the judiciary that is the subject of this editorial.
It is our firm view that while this dispute rages it is the administration of justice that has suffered and has been compromised.
It is therefore important that a solution is found to resolve the current mess.
The problems within Lesotho’s judiciary have been well documented and it is not the subject of this editorial to regurgitate these.
We will only mention one — the huge backlog of cases that are still pending in the courts, some as far back as the early 1990s.
As we have argued before, these inordinate delays in dealing with court cases are a disgrace and are an unfortunate blot on the reputations of those charged with administering justice in Lesotho.
Court cases must be heard timeously. They must also be concluded within a reasonable period of time.
Now, when cases drag for years in the courts, the people’s confidence in the court system is irretrievably shattered.
It is against this background that we want to see all sections of the judiciary working in harmony towards the same goal.
Working at cross-purposes with each other can only ensure one outcome — failure.
It is critical that lawyers and judges work in harmony.
A confrontational and belligerent attitude will inflict so much damage to the administration of justice.
The politics of boycott alone have never really worked as a tool of achieving political goals.
Boycotts only work up to a certain point.
Beyond that point they cease to be useful as a political tool.
In the wake of Monday’s boycott, the leadership of the Law Society must apply their trained legal minds in the search for a lasting solution to the current crisis.
They must think beyond this confrontational phase and provide answers on the way forward.
An adversarial approach tends to antagonise people and worsen conflicts.
We think now is the time to bury the hatchet and give dialogue a chance.
Besides, one should only resort to a boycott when all avenues for dialogue have been firmly shut.
But we still need to be convinced in the first place that the Law Society had indeed exhausted all avenues available to it before it embarked on the boycott on Monday.
The two parties — the chief justice and the Law Society — must sit down together and find each other.
If the situation between them is so toxic that they cannot talk, then they might need a neutral arbiter to help them find each other.
The sooner the two parties meet the better for the administration of justice in Lesotho.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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