Law Society challenges DPP honour

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MASERU — The Law Society of Lesotho has filed a notice at the High Court to challenge the appointment of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Leaba Thetsane, as the King’s Counsel.
The King’s Counsel is an honour bestowed on individuals who would have shown outstanding leadership in the legal profession.
The Law Society normally recommends individuals who should be bestowed the honour.
Thetsane was conferred with the honour of King’s Counsel on July 17 last year by King Letsie III in a move the Law Society said was irregular.
Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla and the Attorney General are cited in the court papers as respondents.
In a notice filed at the High Court on 29 December, the Law Society said Thetsane’s appointment should “be declared null and void and of no consequence”.
In its founding affidavit the Law Society — through its secretary Tšeliso Mokoko — is arguing that Thetsane’s conferment was illegal as he did not meet the mandatory requirements of the Legal Practitioners Act.
“The society’s main objection to the conferment of this honour on the first respondent was that his appearance in the courts of Lesotho particularly the superior courts was minuscule to say the least,
“Second, in the view of the society he has not rendered a distinguished service in the practice of the law because of the fact that he hardly if ever does appear in the courts of law.
“Third, his contribution to the capacity building and mentoring of his juniors was almost non-existent,” said the society.
The Law Society also accuses Thetsane of failing to use local expertise preferring to brief counsel from outside the Kingdom.
“Also, he does not utilise these distinguished and highly experienced legal practitioners to develop local skills and mentor junior crown counsel.”
On 15 April 2009, Chief Justice Lehohla wrote to the society through the Registrar, asking it to advise him if there were any legal impediments relating to the conferment of the status and honour of King’s Counsel on Advocates Mosito, Fanana and Thetsane.
Out of the three individuals, the Law Society endorsed only one candidate, Advocate Mosito.
In a letter dated 29 April 2009 addressed to the Registrar, the Law Society said Advocate Fanana and Thetsane did not “meet the relevant statutory threshold”.
The society said Thetsane was not practising as an advocate in Lesotho’s courts.
The society said as the director of public prosecutions, Thetsane “exercises his powers through delegation to subordinate law officers”.
“In the main, he instructs counsel from South Africa. The upshot of the matter is that his personal appearance in our courts is miniscule,” said the society.
“Mr Thetsane has not rendered a distinguished service in the law practice in the courts of Lesotho.”
Regarding Fanana, the society said “she has not rendered distinguished services in the law practice in our courts. Consequently, she has not rendered distinguished services in the law practice in the courts of Lesotho.”
In another letter dated 29 May 2009 addressed to the private secretary to His Majesty the King, the society said it did not have any record of Thetsane “having been called to the Bar or admitted as an advocate in the courts of Lesotho”.
“We therefore humbly request His Majesty’s office not to allow itself to be embroiled in the wrangling concerning the above matter until it has adequately been resolved in accordance with due process,” wrote the society.
Despite these objections, His Majesty the King conferred the honour on Thetsane on 17 July 2009 following recommendations by the Chief Justice.
“Immediately after our letter to the learned Chief Justice, the Council discovered that he went ahead and recommended the conferment of this honour and dignity to all three candidates, notwithstanding its objections.
“We wrote to the private secretary to His Majesty the King because the society was now convinced the 1st Respondent did not meet the mandatory requirements of Section 7 of the Legal Practitioners Act 1987.
“Notwithstanding our advice and objections, His Majesty the King conferred the honour and dignity of King’s Counsel on 1st Respondent on the 17th July 2009, acting on the recommendations of the 2nd Respondent.”
The Law Society said both the recommendation and conferment “were unlawful”.
It said if Thetsane’s conferment was upheld it would “bring the legal profession into disrepute and the high standards in the practice of law, which the Applicant aspires to promote and maintain, will be greatly compromised”.
Efforts to contact Thetsane to comment on the matter failed yesterday.

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