Africa-Press – Lesotho. Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane has lamented the lack of funding of the judiciary and its long challenges of lack of resources to enable it to function well.
He said there is no need that the country attained independence in the 20th Century yet its judiciary is hampered due to resources. CJ Sakoane said they
are still under “emergency” when it comes to the funding of the courts. Section 118 (3) of the Constitution charges the government to afford the judiciary the resources which will enable its smooth operations.
It says: “The Government shall accord such assistance as the courts may require to enable them to protect their independence, dignity and effectiveness,
subject to this Constitution and any other law. ” “A well-functioning judicial system is essential if people are to have access to justice. Such a system requires funding…,” says the
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s report titled Realizing Human Rights through Government Budgets. The CJ said the
judiciary following many years of independence is still under resourced and is being donated to. He said no one causes the problems in this country but once there are problems, the political class hasten
to outsource help. CJ Sakoane also made mention that the judiciary’s budget is not “responsive” to the needs of the courts. Also last week while addressing the members of the National Reforms Authority (NRA) Justice Molefi
Makara said the political class of this country “owe the nation an apology”. This he said in relation to a shoestring budget that the successive governments and parliaments
have afforded the judiciary making it unable to optimally realise its mandate of the delivery of justice. Judge Makara also questioned the rationale of recruiting foreign judges saying the local judges
have “stood test of time”. The judiciary is reported to be under strain also due to shortage of judges causing the backlog of cases. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has
summarily suspended the appointment of the high court judges earlier in April owing to lack of funds. The High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar, also the
JSC Secretary Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoai said the low-budget that has been accorded to the courts is the principal reason for the suspension of the judges’ appointments.
Advocate Sekoai said at the beginning of the financial year for 2021/2022 the courts have been afforded M937 366.00 for operation costs which they should all share from the Court of Appeal to the
lowest court for the first quarter of the year. Of this amount, the high court’s share is M463 788.54 which she said will mostly cover judges’ benefits
which include electricity, airtime and fuel among others. They are also entitled to personal staffers who are: an executive secretary, chauffer, house-helper and gardener.
She said the M463 788.54 can only afford to cover the benefits of the judges adding they cannot ‘owe’ them their entitlements. The Registrar mentioned that the ‘soon’ to be
opened Tšifalimali Court Complex in Leribe which houses two high court rooms also will have two judges posted on it and as it stands their budget cannot
afford to pay those judges, procure cars and the office equipment that they will need while discharging their duties. When completed, this court is going
to serve the north region. This was the move to centralise the judiciary and it is expected that the other High Court will be built in Mohale’s Hoek which will serve the south region of the country.
Few months ago, the judiciary suffered a blow as the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) disconnected power at the Maseru Magistrate Court and the High Court as they had defaulted in their payments.