Magistrates’ strike stalls cops’ graft case

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MASERU — Proceedings to commit four senior police officers who are facing charges of corruption to the High Court failed to take place yesterday due to the ongoing “go slow” by magistrates.

The magistrates began boycotting work on Monday in protest over the appointment of High Court and Court of Appeal registrar Mathato Sekoai as chief magistrate for the southern region.

The Judicial Officers Association of Lesotho last Thursday said they would embark on a strike beginning Monday if Sekoai’s appointment was not reversed.

The association claims the appointment was irregular as Sekoai lacked the necessary experience to act as chief magistrate.

Their protest brought to a halt moves to commit the four senior officers to the High Court for trial.

The four senior police officers — together with a local businesswoman — are being charged with fraud, bribery and theft.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Tumelo Moseme, Assistant Commissioners Dlamini Mphatšoane and Thakane Theko, as well as Inspector Habofanoe Lepheana are accused of conniving to rig tenders for the supply of the police’s new uniforms
for the special operations unit which was headed by Mphatšoane.

Also charged is a local businesswoman Rebecca Makhalemele and her two companies Linare Clothing and New Vision Suppliers.

Two senior managers of Boliba Savings and Credit, a local cooperatives bank, Phethang Mpota and Sekoala Motsoasele, are also facing the same charges.

The seven are alleged to have hatched a plan to rig tenders and falsify documents.

The crown claims the police officers pocketed M125 000 in bribes from Makhalemele.

The accused first appeared before the Maseru Magistrates’ Court in June and were released on free bail.

The prosecution had now planned to transfer the case to the High Court.

But the proceedings failed to take place as magistrates were locked in a series of meetings yesterday.

Sekoai was last week appointed chief magistrate after High Court judges demanded that she be removed.

The judges had downed tools refusing to hear cases until Sekoai had either been fired or relocated elsewhere.

They claimed Sekoai was corrupt, incompetent, disrespectful and arrogant.

But no sooner had Sekoai been appointed chief magistrate south that magistrates began their own war against her.

Last Thursday the magistrates wrote a letter to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) threatening to embark on their own strike if Sekoai assumed her new post.

The magistrates say Sekoai’s job had not been advertised as required by the law and that her appointment disadvantaged other deserving candidates who had not been given a chance to compete for the same job.

On Monday business at the Maseru Magistrates’ Court got off to a slow start as the magistrates began their “go slow”.

No cases were being heard at the court yesterday.

Most people who had come for remand were told by prosecutors that they would be called when the situation got back to normal.

The case for the police officers will now take place on March 2 as the crown seeks to formally transfer the matter to the High Court for trial.

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