MASERU – Seven new judges have been appointed to the bench of the High Court of Lesotho. The JSC had 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 were shortlisted for the interviews.
Out of 18 candidates competing for the vacant judiciary seats the seven who made the cut are: Magistrate ’Makampong Gugu Mokhoro, the Ombudsman Tšeliso Joachim Mokoko, as well as Advocates ’Mabatšoeneng Grace Hlaele, Hopolang John Nathane, ’Mafelile Patricia Ralebese, Moneuoa Stephen Kopo, and Thamae Andreas Thamae.
Those who failed to impress are: ’Mamotšelisi Mary-Theresia Khiba, Itumeleng Mary Ralebese Letsika, ’Maliepollo Makhetha, ’Matankiso Nthunya, Molemo Monethi, Peter Celestine Murenzi, Tšeliso Raymond Bale, Monyake George Hlabanyane, Manyathela Clement Kolobe, Teboho Thoso and Kuili Ndebele.
For the first time in the judiciary’s history interviews were conducted publicly by the Judicial Service Commission panel of Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane, Justice Polo Banyane – Public Service, Commission chairperson Moshoeshoe Sehloho, the commission secretary ’Mathato Sekoai and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa.
Speaking to Public Eye during the interviewing sessions 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.” 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 the 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 Justice Semapo Peete on 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 to be up to 4 000.
The temporary judges being sworn in will however work on 35 cases in their given three months. The number of High Court judges was also depleted by the deaths of Honourable Justices Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane, Lebohang Molete and Teboho Moiloa, worsening the already dire situation.