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IN a week of high drama, the Chief Justice of Lesotho has been ordered by the high court to stay out of the Palace of Justice and not to carry out any functions relating to her office. This follows her suspension, in apparent defiance of two court orders barring the government from taking steps to ask that the King suspend her.
CONCERN and confusion about recusal decisions by judges in the region continued this week. Most significant of these cases was a startling high court order against the chief justice of Lesotho. It was granted by the judge appointed as acting chief justice in her place who, in other jurisdictions, might have been expected to recuse herself. Other cases involving controversial recusal decisions this week come from SA and Namibia. These cases follow our report last week of mounting unease about a series of controversial decisions by judges in Swaziland on whether or when to recuse themselves.
LIKE the former president of Lesotho’s highest court, the Chief Justice may be seen as a victim of the clash between two competing political interest groups: there is now an established pattern in terms of which one party or interest group makes a top judicial appointment and then, when the other grouping gets into power, it seeks to get rid of that jurist and put its own candidate in place. But while this may be the reasoning behind the drive to get rid of top judges, what are the public reasons given by the Maseru government for wanting to suspend and investigate the present Chief Justice?
PROMPT delivery of decisions is seen as so important that some African countries even discipline judges who do not give judgments within a reasonable time. But in Zimbabwe, the constitutional court has still failed to hand down a crucial judgment two years and eight months after hearing. This in a country where the maximum delay tolerated by the judicial code of ethics is six months.
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