Businessman fights extradition

2

By Nat Molomo

MASERU — Businessman Jessie Ramaka­tane, who was allegedly involved in the June 2007 attacks on the houses of three cabinet ministers, wants to return to Lesotho but only as a “free man”.

He is now fighting the government’s bid to have him extradited to face criminal charges over the attacks saying this should not be done at all because of an amnesty extended to politi­cal fugitives last year.
The attacks on the homes of then Minis­ter in the Prime Minister’s Office Motloheloa Phooko, former Trade Minister Popane Leb­esa, and former Tourism Minister Lebohang Nts’inyi, followed general elections won by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy in 2007. The former ministers and their families survived the attacks.

The Butha Buthe businessman then fled Lesotho to South Africa amid allegations that he participated in the attacks in which Leso­tho Defence Force (LDF) soldiers guarding the ministerial homes were disarmed by the attackers. Ramakatane and his accomplices had been slapped with robbery and attempted murder charges.

According to court papers, Ramakatane fled Lesotho in June 2007 with one Lefa David “Maker” Ramantsoe and Thabiso Mahase, the husband of High Court judge Justice ‘Mase­foro Mahase, both of whom are cited as his ac­complices.

Now Ramakatane is fighting Lesotho’s ex­tradition application on the grounds that the alleged co-accomplices, Ramantsoe and Ma­hase, had been pardoned by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s coalition government.

Upon assuming power in June 2012, Tha­bane’s coalition announced a general amnesty to political fugitives whose plight it attributed to the “vindictiveness” of the previous Paka­litha Mosisili’s regime.
Ramakatane says he cannot understand why his extradition is now being sought to face criminal charges over which his alleged co-accomplices had already been pardoned.

In any event, Ramakatane also denies ever having been involved in the attacks. He says he fled Lesotho to seek political asylum in South Africa in 2007 because of the general political upheavals in Lesotho then.
“I fled into South Africa with, amongst oth­ers, Thabiso Mahase and Ford Sekamane who are residents of Lesotho,” Ramakatane says.

“Since then I have always been in South Africa and the Lesotho government has ap­plied to the South African government for my extradition into Lesotho claiming that I was wanted for murder and robbery charges when these latter charges are disguised to have me extradited for an alleged political offence.”
Ramakatane’s lawyer, Advocate Molefi Nth­loki, this week said robbery and attempted murder charges against his client had initially been dropped after the amnesty announced by the coalition government when it assumed power but had been inexplicably reinstated.

Ramakatane states in his papers that, Thabiso Mahase and Ford Sekamane, were last year granted amnesty by the government of Lesotho for the same political offences for which “we all fled into South Africa”.

“I was singularly left out for no apparent reason and I continue to suffer irreparable harm and prejudice as I am not able to run my businesses in Lesotho,” Ramakatane says.
“It is also in the interest of justice and fair­ness that I be given the same privilege as my would-be-co-accused.”
Ramakatane says he is incurring heavy expenses fighting the extradition bid as he is compelled to attend hearings in Gauteng while he is based in the Free State.

“This has already cost me in excess of two million Maloti in counsel’s fees,” Ramakatane says.
According to the charge sheet, which forms part of the extradition application, Ramaka­tane and company disarmed the LDF mem­bers and stole their weapons which they used in the attacks, resulting in the attempted murder and robbery charges.

Ntlhoki said Ramakatane has also filed a parallel applica­tion in the High Court in Leso­tho seeking to be granted the amnesty extended to his alleged ac­complices and to have the warrant of his extradition issued by Leso­tho cancelled.

Ramakatane cites the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Attorney-General, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs as respondents who must all explain why the warrant for his extradition cannot be cancelled. .

Ramakatane has attached a support­ing affidavit from one Malefa Maph­eleba, who also fled to South Africa but has since been pardoned under last year’s political amnesty, to support his case.
Mapheleba states that she, Ford Sekamane, Thabiso Mahase, David Lefa Ramant­soe fled Lesotho in the light of the political up­heavals and sought political asylum in South Africa.

She says in the affidavit that in 2012, Ford Sekamane, Thabise Mahase, Lefa Ramantsoe and herself were granted amnesty by govern­ment of Lesotho and came back home.

“The Prime Minister Dr Thomas Motsoahae Thabane not only welcomed us at the National Library, Maseru, but went so far as to hold a press conference concerning our return home.”
On both occasions Thabane publicly pro­nounced that “we had been given amnesty for all the alleged criminal and political offences we were suspected of before and during our flight into South Africa.”
Mapheleba states that she specifically asked Thabane in the presence of his political adviser Sekhonyana Bereng why Ramakatane had been left out of the amnesty.

“The Prime Minister assured us that the process was under way to have him (Ramaka­tane) come back home under amnesty like all of us.

“I was shocked and bewildered to know later that in respect of Ramakatane extradition arrangements were under way to have him arrested and brought to Lesotho to face certain criminal charges in which David Lefa Ramantsoe and Thabiso Mahase were co-accused in the charge sheet.”

In his answering affidavit the DPP among others, admitted that Ramaka­tane fled to South Africa with Thabiso Mahase and Ford Sekamane.
The DPP, Leaba Thetsane, denies many things in Ramakatane’s application and chal­lenges him to prove them.
The DPP insists that Ramakatane fled to South Africa because he was involved in the 2007 attacks which he claims threatened national security through the forced disarm­ing of soldiers. Mapheleba states that she specifically asked Thabane in the presence of his political adviser Sekhonyana Bereng why Ramakatane had been left out of the amnesty.

“The Prime Minister assured us that the process was under way to have him (Ramaka­tane) come back home under amnesty like all of us.

“I was shocked and bewildered to know lat­er that in respect of Ramakatane (applicant) extradition arrangements were under way to have him arrested and brought to Lesotho to face certain criminal charges in which David Lefa Ramantsoe and Thabiso Mahase were co-accused in the charge sheet.”
In his answering affidavit the DPP among others, admitted that Ramaka­tane fled to South Africa with Thabiso Mahase and Ford Sekamane.

He said other things contained in the statement of Ramakatane are de­nied and he must prove them.
The DPP, Leaba Thetsane, how­ever, states that Ramakatane fled to South Africa because he was involved in 2007 incidents that threatened the national security by force­fully taking away guns from members of the armed forces.

Share.

About Author

Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

Contact us today: News: editor@lestimes.co.ls Advertising: marketing@lestimes.co.ls Telephone: +266 2231 5356

Comments are closed.