Here we post news and developments from within, and affecting, Judiciaries in Africa
THE decision, delivered on Friday morning by the highest court in Lesotho, was entirely predictable given the tone of questioning and discussion in court during the hearing earlier in the week.
Lesotho’s Court of Appeal has not been operating for some time as the judicial crisis surrounding the head of that court has played out, but five acting judges, headed by former Zambian judge, Philip Musonda, were appointed to hear this matter.
WOMEN in African’s top judicial positions will have been watching the case of their colleague, the Chief Justice of Seychelles, Mathilda Twomey, with more than keen interest. It is a remarkable fact that, of the southern and east African countries whose decisions we have been writing about recently, women hold top office in just a tiny number of countries. And yet most of these already few women are under scrutiny, facing threat of impeachment or prosecution.
IN the midst of the judicial crisis in Lesotho, that country’s new acting chief justice has moved swiftly to stamp her authority on the courts and on the processes that had been put in place to prevent the suspension of the beleaguered chief justice.
On Sunday afternoon, 16 September, the new ACJ, Judge Maseforo Mahase, granted an ex parte order against Lesotho’s Chief Justice, Judge Nthomeng Majara stipulating that the latter was barred from the precincts of the palace of justice. She also barred Judge Majara from any activities associated with the role of the CJ.
THE court order barring the Chief Justice from access to the court complex was made by one of the CJ’s colleagues and the judge appointed as Acting Chief Justice, Maseforo Mahase.
That order was the culmination of several days of fevered activity on the subject of the government’s determined efforts to get rid of the CJ, Judge Nthomeng Majara.
WHEN the Chief Justice of Lesotho, Nthomeng Majara, was officially suspended on 12 September, government named an acting chief justice: Judge Maseforo Mahase.
The next day, through a letter from her legal team, the Chief Justice disputed the legality of the suspension, saying there were two court orders that specifically barred her suspension, and that when she returned from a conference in Australia she intended to return to her office and take up her normal work.
AFTER it was voted into power the present Maseru government removed the president of the court of appeal, appointed by the previous government, and sought to replace him with Kananelo Mosito, the disgraced former head of the appeal court. However, earlier this year a full bench of judges declared the government acted unlawfully in removing the constitutionally appointed new head of the appeal court, SA Judge Robert Nugent. The court also found the re-appointment of Mosito was unlawful. Since then the court of appeal has effectively ceased to operate in Lesotho.
WHILE the country waits, Zimbabwe’s constitutional court judges are still considering whether to tell parliament it must obey the constitution.
The court’s delay follows a case brought by the local legal information organization, Veritas, complaining that a key section of the constitution had not been implemented more than five years after the country’s supreme law came into effect in 2013.
SEVERAL cases in Swaziland have come to a halt over the last weeks because judges have recused themselves. Their decisions raise the questions whether they were correct to do so in the circumstances, and how litigation can proceed when judicial officers decline to hear a matter.
Without a written judgment on recusal decisions it is not easy to know whether the thinking measures up to constitutional standards, but in at least one case, the judges concerned are to be formally asked for reasons in writing.
THE case of the 42 magistrates is another long-running legal battle aimed at reversing some of the “radical surgery” performed on the Kenyan judiciary in the years from 2002.
That was the year in which tough steps were taken to root out corruption within the judicial sphere and a number of judges and other judicial officers were let go.