MASERU – The long-awaited interviews for the 18 candidates vying for the vacant seats on the bench of the High Court of Lesotho end today. The interviews started on Monday 14 as the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) began the process of appointing eight candidates for the top judicial posts. The JSC invited applications from interested individuals while also inviting the public on October 29, 2021, to submit nominations for the positions.
According to the JSC the call attracted a total of 21 candidates, 18 of which met the published criteria and were shortlisted for the interviews. The judiciary’s publicist, ’Mabohlokoa Mapikitla, in an interview said “of the eight positions that will be filled after the appointment of the judges, six will serve under the High Court of Lesotho while two will serve at the Northern Regional Court at Tšifa-li-mali, in Leribe.” Mapikitla added that “the new judges will be assigned to tackle the backlog of outstanding cases that have overwhelmed the High Court”.
JSC secretary M.P. Sekoai said the shortlisted candidates that met the Judicial Service Commission circular No. 05 of 2021 dated December 6, 2021 who will be in the hot seat are, Makampong Gugu Mokhoro, Molemo Monethi, Peter Celestine Murenzi, Tšeliso Raymond Bale, Monyake George Hlabanyane, ’Mabatšoeneng Grace Hlaele, Manyathela Clement Kolobe, ’Mamotšelisi Mary-Theresa Khiba, Moneuoa Stephen Kopo, Itumeleng Ralebese-Letsika, ’Maliepollo Makhetha, Tšeliso Joachim Mokoko, Hopolang John Nathane, ’Matankiso Nthunya, ’Mafelile Patricia Ralebese, Thamae Andreas Thamae, Teboho Thoso and Kuili Ndebele.
Interviews are conducted by JSC members, Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane, Justice Polo Banyane, Public Service, Commission chairperson Moshoeshoe Sehloho, the commission secretary ’Mathato Sekoai and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa. Of the shortlisted candidates, some are lawyers while others are magistrates but all are in the race to make it to the title of Judge under the supervision of the High Court of Lesotho.
Mapikitla said, “It is not known at this time when the eight appointed judges to the High Court would be announced however the JSC will announce once all the necessary steps have been completed”. The High Court has been acutely short of judges for about two years now, with the unfortunate resignation of two foreign judges that were hired after Phumaphi report under the UNDP project. Only Justice Charles Hungwe is left on the project.
The bench was also done a blow by the retirement of Honourable Justice Semapo Peete in July 21, 2020 who was recalled to the bench on his merits and long serving experience in the High Court, to continue serving temporarily for three months on criminal cases from the month of February to April alongside Acting Justices Palesa Rantara and Tšabo Matooane, as courts battle a huge backlog of criminal cases estimated at up to 4000. The temporary judges being sworn in will however work on 35 cases in their given three months. The numbers of High Court were brought down by the deaths of Honourable Justices Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane, Lebohang Molete and Teboho Moiloa, worsening the already dire situation.