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Thabane’s court appearance was a circus



Section 19 of Lesotho’s constitution clearly guarantees the “right to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law. Every person shall be entitled to equality before the law and to the equal protection of the law”. The supreme law addresses the issue of equality before the law. The notion of equality before the law maintains that laws should apply equally to all citizens. Simply put, no one is above the law. This idea is the mainstay of our constitution and is widely viewed as a central tenet of a fair and just legal system. However, in Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s administration, former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is a privileged man because he is not subject to the same treatment as Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane. Nevertheless, it may be important to remind Majoro that we are all equal before the law and that all citizens must be subjected to the same treatment. Last week Thabane appeared before the courts of law. He was supposed to be read charges against him by a judge. If procedure was to be observed, the next step would have been to be remanded into custody until he applied for bail at the High Court. However, Thabane miraculously remains a free man pending his bail application. Another observation was that there was no judge to read the charges. Thabane and his wife appeared before Assistant Registrar Tebello Mokhoema, who informed them of their charges and then they returned home. Thabane was casually charged with murder, attempted murder and malicious damage to property for the brutal and fatal shooting of his estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane. Every person should be treated equally before the law. It is central to our country’s values and the rule of law. It is unjust for the courts of law to discriminate among its citizens, providing Thabane with more liberty and Metsing and Mochoboroane less liberty. Metsing and Mochoboroane were not subjected to the same treatment the courts of law gave Thabane last week. How come Thabane miraculously remains a free man pending his bail application at the High Court? I thought every person was equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law without discrimination. Why are some animals more equal than others? How come the judge decided to abscond from duty and there was no judge in court for Thabane’s case? Yet a judge was present the following week to handle Metsing and Mochoboroane’s case. What kind of justice is this? Equality is very often linked to fairness. The courts of law should treat all equally. They ought to be impartial and not biased. And processes should also be equal. It is not difficult to find explicit rejection of equal treatment, equal access, equal rights or equal opportunity. Equality has become a value that is impossible to argue against but the courts of law appear to be treating citizens unequally. The law is supposed to be applied equally to every person. No one person or institution is above the law and the application of the law. Thus, the government and all within it are subject to the law in precisely the same way as everybody else. No special group, institution or person is above the law and the equal application of the law. Equality is a fundamental component of the rule of law itself. A proper acceptance of this means a proper respect for the rule of law. I am shocked that advocates of the rule of law failed to condemn Thabane’s treatment in the courts of law. Mochoboroane was not subjected to the same treatment, he appeared before a court that had a judge and a prosecutor. Unfortunately Metsing decided not to attend and a warrant for his arrest has since been issued. It is clear that citizens are not treated equally before the law. Thabane is more equal than Metsing and Mochoboroane. All judicial officers take an oath to administer the law without fear or favour. Assistant Registrar Mokhoema knows the correct procedure Thabane should have taken. Mokhoema is required to treat all parties fairly regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, age, religious affiliation, socio-economic background, size or nature of family, literacy level or any other such characteristic. Our courts of law must acknowledge the importance of perception. Everyone who comes into contact with the court system must not only be treated fairly and without discrimination, but also believe they are being treated fairly and without any form of discrimination, otherwise, public confidence in the judicial system will be compromised. I am not merely making political statements here, I am concerned as a citizen. All I am asking for is that this unequal treatment should stop. If it does not, then our entire justice delivery system will be put in a very compromised state. Ramahooana Matlosa

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