Law Society takes on Thetsane

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MASERU — The Law Society of Lesotho this week took the battle to get the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leaba Thetsane stripped of his King’s Counsel title to the Court of Appeal.

Thetsane was awarded the King’s Counsel title by King Letsie III during the king’s birthday on July 17 last year.

The king’s decision did not however sit well with the law society which filed an application in the High Court saying Thetsane should be stripped of that honour because he had not rendered distinguished services to the legal fraternity.

Their bid however failed with Acting High Court Judge Hein Grosskopf throwing out the application.

A King’s Counsel is a title prescribed in the Law Society Act.

A King’s Counsel in Lesotho in equivalent to a senior counsel in South Africa and a Queen’s Counsel in the United Kingdom.

A lawyer is recommended for the award by the chief justice to the king. A senior counsel is allowed to charge higher fees than a general lawyer.

The title is bestowed on a lawyer based on his experience and achievement in the development of the legal practice in Lesotho. After their initial bid in the High Court failed the law society approached the Court of Appeal.

At the Tuesday hearing the law society’s lawyer Advocate Qhalehang Letsika insisted that Thetsane did not deserve the honour because he had not rendered a “distinguished service in the practise of law in Lesotho”.

“The law requires that a person should have rendered distinguished services before he or she can receive the King’s Counsel title,” Letsika said.

The law requires that the title should be conferred on a person who has shown an outstanding performance in the practise of law in the courts, he said. 

Letsika said Thetsane had not displayed any outstanding performance as a practising lawyer in the courts because he has resorted to instructing South African lawyers to deal with complicated criminal cases.

If Thetsane was an outstanding lawyer fit to receive the King’s Counsel title he should be able to deal with such cases without relying on the services of expatriate lawyers. 

In his reasons to justify his recommendation for the king to give the title to Thetsane, Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla said Thetsane had handled complicated criminal cases.

This, Letsika argued, was a contradiction to the reality prevailing in the DPP’s office.

In an affidavit filed during the High Court case Thetsane himself told the court that he instructs South African lawyers to deal with special cases.

“The learned chief justice’s version contradicts the first respondent’s (Thetsane’s) version because the first respondent says he briefs lawyers from outside the country for complicated cases,” Letsika said.

Letsika also accused Thetsane of not often appearing in court frequently to deal with cases as the government’s most senior lawyer.

“At one time the law society even advised him to appear in court regularly like his predecessor (Siphosihle Mdlhuli) to set an example to his juniors,” Letsika said.

However Thetsane’s lawyer Advocate Guido Penzhorn told the Court of Appeal that Thetsane was legitimately awarded the title.

“Even though the first respondent (Thetsane) was not appearing before the chief justice personally the chief justice might have got information from other judges,” Penzhorn argued. 

“The first respondent did not have to appear before him personally.”

Penzhorn was responding to Letsika’s contention that Lehohla could not confirm that Thetsane appears in court because Lehohla last heard cases in 2004.

Penzhorn said Lehohla had no reason to use false information to recommend Thetsane for the title.

Judgment is expected on October 22.

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