Judicial Service Commission

Litigation in Lesotho as King declines to appoint judges

Many people in the legal world will be aware of the looming constitutional crisis in Kenya where the President, Uhuru Kenyatta, has refused to appoint a number of judges whose names were presented to him by the Judicial Service Commission. Fewer, however, will have been aware that a similar problem has arisen in Lesotho and that litigation is now pending to test whether the King – Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy – may refuse to approve the appointment of candidates proposed by the commission.

No-one disputes that Lesotho has a serious shortage of judges. And with some having recently retired and two recent deaths, the situation has now become critical.

Towards the end of August, the Judicial Service Commission met to consider new appointments. There were five vacancies, and after the commission’s consideration, five names were finalised and sent to the King for appointment.

Judges' scandal in South Africa raises questions over Judicial Service Commission

In many African countries a special ceremony is held during January to mark the start of the official court year. No such tradition has yet developed in South Africa. But the 2020 legal year got off to a spectacular start all the same: the deputy judge president of the high court in one of SA's biggest provinces issued an affidavit making sensational claims against the judge president and his wife, who is also a judge in the same division.

Read affidavit by Patricia Goliath DJP

Perhaps the biggest shock I have ever experienced while writing about judges and the law in South Africa, was the day I heard that the judge president of the Western Cape, John Hlophe, was in trouble with the Constitutional Court, South Africa’s apex legal forum.

High-ranking accused in "scurrilous" bid to remove foreign judges from Lesotho cases

When Judge Charles Hungwe from Zimbabwe arrived in Lesotho earlier this year to start work on a series of controversial trials, he was given a warm reception in the local media. But since then the accused in some of the cases over which he was due to preside proved rather less than welcoming. In fact, 16 accused initially due to stand trial before him, led by Lesotho's former defence minister, Tseliso Mokhosi, have brought an application for his appointment – and the appointment of all other foreign judges who might hear the pending cases – to be declared unconstitutional. 

Read judgment

Zimbabwe's Judge Charles Hungwe is one of several foreign judges who applied to hear controversial criminal cases involving high-ranking figures from among Lesotho’s politicians, army and police.

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