…govt says meetings “worrisome”.
PRIME MINISTER Thomas Thabane says the government has received “worrisome” intelligence reports of secret meetings in South Africa between lawyers of the embattled Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and the self-exiled leader of Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Mothetjoa Metsing.
Dr Thabane made the revelations in his answering affidavit to a court application that Justice Majara recently filed seeking an order to interdict the premier from advising His Majesty King Letsie III to appoint a tribunal to recommend whether or not she should be impeached over allegations of misconduct.
Dr Thabane however, said that he would not disclose to the court the details of the secret meetings, adding that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was on hand to monitor the security situation in the country.
Dr Thabane wrote to Justice Majara on 27 April this year, requesting that she ‘show cause’ why she should not be suspended and why a tribunal should not be appointed to impeach her on various charges of misconduct including the alleged failure to preside over cases for two years.
However, Justice Majara who is represented by Advocate Qhalehang Letsika KC of the Mei & Mei Attorneys, fought back by filing a court challenge against Dr Thabane last month.
Dr Thabane, the Minister of Law, Lebohang Hlaele and the Attorney General, Haae Phoofolo are cited as first to third respondents respectively in Justice Majara’s lawsuit.
She accused Dr Thabane of using legal and extra-legal means to hound her out of office.
She said the extra-legal means included threats from some cabinet ministers, principal secretaries and public demonstrations by some individuals who styled themselves as the ‘Hands off Mosito’ campaigners.
But in his answering affidavit filed on Tuesday, Dr Thabane sought to paint a picture of a chief justice who was working with the opposition to destabilise the government and the country.
Among other things, Dr Thabane said “the government is in possession of internal security intelligence regarding meetings that are being held in Ficksburg, South Africa involving some of the lawyers of the applicant with the self-exiled leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)”.
“As the Prime Minister of this country and in the interests of internal security, I can only inform this court that those meetings are worrisome.
“However, matters of internal national security are the responsibility of the executive government and not this honourable court. There are obviously SADC troops monitoring security sector issues and details of the said meetings need not be disclosed to this court,” Dr Thabane said.
He said the association of Justice Majara with the political interests of opposition parties was of grave concern to the government.
“I say this because one has here, a chief justice who is represented by lawyers who are up to stifle the proper functioning of the courts by filling application after application.
“For obvious reasons, the applicant (Justice Majara) chose to be represented by the same lawyers who are representing suspects accused of murder, high treason and the attempted coup of 30 August 2014. These are the very lawyers who in our view as the government, have constituted themselves as opposition political activists.”
Four lawyers, namely, King’s Counsel Motiea Teele, Zwelakhe Mda, Karabo Mohau and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika have consistently challenged executive decisions including the re-appointment of Justice Kananelo Mosito as President of the Court of Appeal.
The quartet also moved to pre-empt the possible impeachment of Justice Majara by filing a court application in February this year.
Dr Thabane said it was public knowledge that Adv Teele was a legally registered trustee of the opposition LCD and he was pursuing the political agenda of opposition parties to destabilise the government.
Dr Thabane further said that Adv Teele’s links with the opposition were of material consideration because he was not only a legal representative of Justice Majara but also that of the soldiers accused of mutiny and other offences that bred instability in the country from 2014 to last year.
He said Adv Teele was opposed to the hiring of foreign judges to ease the backlog of cases which some judicial officers say is as high as 4000.
Dr Thabane said Adv Teele’s opposition to the recruitment of foreign judges stemmed from his misgivings about them after one of his clients lost a case in which they sought to nullify the proceedings of the SADC Commission of Inquiry which investigated the June 2015 assassination of former army commander, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.
Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his LDF colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The LDF claimed Lt-Gen Mahao had resisted arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny when he was killed but that claim was later dismissed as false by the SADC inquiry.
The SADC inquiry was headed by the retired Botswana Judge Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana.
The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended, among other things, that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible.
It also recommended that then LDF commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli be relieved of his duties “in the interest of restoring trust and acceptance of the LDF to the Basotho nation”.
Lt-Gen Kamoli was eventually retired in December 2016.
Dr Thabane said that Adv Teele also went on to represent the former commissioner of police, Molahlehi Letsoepa, who is facing charges of murdering Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng.
Letsoepa – who was appointed by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led former government in November 2015 – was sent on an involuntary 90-day leave by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane in June last year.
He left the country soon afterwards and the government has indicated that it wants him extradited from South Africa to face murder charges.
Dr Thabane also expressed reservations about Adv Letsika, saying he was also working for the opposition as evidenced by the fact that he represents the former Minister of Defence, Tšeliso Mokhosi, who is charged along with Letsoepa in the PC Khetheng murder case.
“The indications are that the applicant (Justice Majara) and her four lawyers have directly and indirectly paralysed the court of appeal by blocking the re-appointment of Dr Mosito as the President of the Court of Appeal. They have blocked the appointment of Her Ladyship (‘Maseshophe) Hlajoane as the Acting President of the Court of Appeal on the basis of a fraudulently accessed copy of the government gazette…violating the Official Secrets Act and the Internal Security Act.
“The applicant (Justice Majara) has evidently sacrificed her probity as a judge on the altar of political expediency because her decision to fight the government is now the main campaigning object of the opposition political parties which openly support her position in their rallies and over the media,” Dr Thabane said.