Lesotho Times

Drama in court as lawyer is jailed

MASERU — There was drama in the courtroom on Monday when a well-known lawyer was jailed for four days for contempt of court following a heated exchange with a magistrate. Advocate Koili Ndebele was appearing before Magistrate Molemo Monethi to answer a charge of contempt of court when his trial degenerated into a war of words that ended with him behind bars. Magistrate Monethi was so enraged by Ndebele’s belligerence that he ordered he be jailed for four days.
Tempers flared when Ndebele started shouting at Monethi, insisting that instead of pleading to the contempt of court charge he should be given a chance to address the court on points of law. He continued to insist on raising points of law when Monethi asked if he had brought a witness to court. By this time Ndebele was shouting at the magistrate, arguing that it was his right to address the court. His left hand was in his trousers’ pocket while the right one kept pointing at the magistrate as he desperately tried to get his argument across. “Mr Ndebele, tell me this one thing and nothing else. Have you or have you not got in the way of the messengers of this court as they carried out the order of this court?” Monethi asked with a raised voice and what looked like a frown on his face. The magistrate had clearly lost his cool but Ndebele was in no mood to stop shouting. “Your Worship, you should give me an audience. I said I am going to raise points of law . . .”
Eventually the magistrate could not take it anymore. “Ho! Bring me the form,” he said, interrupting Ndebele who was still harping on about his right to address the court on points on law. Magistrate Monethi was referring to a blue form that is filled by court officials when an accused person is jailed. Instead of waiting for court officials to bring the form the angry Monethi stood and briskly walked to his chambers. He had no time for the routine courtroom mannerisms like waiting for people to stand before he could leave the courtroom. As Monethi walked out of the courtroom Ndebele raised his voice even higher. “I deserve to be heard! It is my right,” he shouted. He should have known that the magistrate was about to take his other right — that of freedom of movement. After a few minutes the magistrate came back into the court, clutching the “blue form” which he handed to a court official to fill. The official did not know Ndebele’s names and age so he asked the magistrate for assistance. “I do not know his age. He is Ndebele, write Advocate Ndebele,” came the answer from the visibly annoyed magistrate. As the official was completing the form Monethi ordered a police officer who was in the courtroom to take Ndebele out. “Mr Letjoi, accompany him now.” When Letjoi hesitated Monethi, who by now was on his feet, raised his voice: “I say accompany him now. Bring him back here on the 15th”. Monethi moved to the door, turned to look at Ndebele who had now stood — perhaps in shock — watching as Letjoi approached him. “This is my court,” he said before disappearing into his chambers. Ndebele’s fate had been sealed but he had no intention of being dragged out of the court like a common criminal. With his hand still in his pocket and glasses perched on his sweaty forehead Ndebele stood in the courtroom as people streamed out of the courtroom. He had just “talked” his way to jail and the man who had just delivered the punishment was no longer in the court. His face had softened, perhaps after realising that he had been defeated. Luckily photographers who wanted to take his photo in his moment of misery were stopped in their tracks by court officials. His client, businessman Moeketsi Tsatsanyane, later came out of the court hanging Ndebele’s tie on his right shoulder. Ndebele was on his way to prison. He is expected to appear before Monethi again today to answer the main contempt of court charge. He is accused of ordering the locking of offices so that messengers of court could not enter to effect an order granted to a faction of the troubled Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company (LPMTC) in a case he represented another faction. Ndebele is representing a faction led by Tsatsanyane, the embattled LPMTC managing director, while a faction that was granted a court order is led by the company trustee, Makalo Monare.

Lesotho Times

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

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