The Law Society of Lesotho held a Special General Meeting on Wednesday in which it issued a statement explaining that all its members will resume their normal duties and responsibilities with immediate effect.
The society made the statement shortly after it announced last week that all its members were downing tools in a bit to give all stakeholders in the judiciary to sit, discuss and fix the problems surrounding the Court of Appeal and the Magistrate Courts.
According to the society’s statement penned down by the President Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, members of the society resolved to resume their ordinary duties with immediate effect while the society will continue to engage the government and relevant stakeholders in the administration of justice, through short and long term measures targeted at effectively and meaningfully resolving the issue of insufficient funding of the judiciary and other systematic and structural issues bedevilling the judiciary.
The statement explains that the society also made the resolution after noting the developments made by the ministry of justice to deal with the issues and concerns by the Magistrates and the communication breakdown between the ministry of justice and the Magistrate’s representatives association.
The association highlights that it also considered the efforts to commit funds to sustain the April 2019 session of the Court of Appeal, the projected May 2019 holding of the session of the Court of Appeal as well as the general insufficient funding of the judiciary as a whole.
The statement further highlights that it also considered the report by the Council of the society relating to the go-slow by the Magistrates and the underlying issues as well as the suspension of the April 2019 session of the Court of Appeal and also the systemic and structural issues endemic to the whole of the judiciary.
The announcement follows an incident on Tuesday where Acting Chief Justice (ACJ) ‘Maseforo Mahase vetoed judicial officer’s press conference organised by the Judicial Officers Association of Lesotho (JOALE).
According to Magistrate Masupha Kao, association’s secretary, they were informed by the Acting Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal Advocate Ponts’o Phafoli that ACJ Mahase, as head of the judiciary, has ordered that the intended press conference be stopped from proceeding.
Magistrate Kao explained that the ACJ’s order as per Advocate Phafoli also explained that “from now on-wards, all Magistrates should first consult with her for her approval or disapproval whenever they are asked questions by the media regarding the judiciary as a whole.”
Magistrate Kao indicated that he was further informed by Advocate Phafoli that ACJ Mahase complains that she is never informed about what happens at the Magistrate Court and that she only gets to hear about it only when she is asked by the responsible minister to give clarification.
He, however, conceded that JOALE did not inform the ACJ “because the press conference was only planned and decided on Monday afternoon for Tuesday.”
Magistrate Kao would not disclose the purpose of the conference “as doing so would be tantamount to defying ACJ’s order” and that the association was yet to research on or consult whether the ACJ has powers over it, although all magistrates are answerable to the ACJ.
The magistrates were this week on a third week go slow campaign which they vowed would only end when their demands have been met.
The magistrates are asking for the ACJ’s intervention in their long term grievances that include among others, low salaries, lack of security at work and lack of resources.
The Law Society of Lesotho has expressed a concern on the situation and said they were ready to mediate between the parties to find a solution for the sake of justice in the magistrates courts and the court of appeal.