PROMINENT South African lawyer, Guido Penzhorn, wants Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Acting Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana held in contempt of court following the forced removal of Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe from office two weeks ago.
Addressing the High Court this week, Senior Counsel (SC) Penzhorn said Mr Makhethe was forced to leave office contrary to a High Court order issued on 19 June 2014.
“They are in contempt and we know contempt of court is a criminal offence. The order made by this honourable court on 19 June 2014 is clear, and remains in force,” Advocate Penzhorn said.
According to the order, Mr Makhethe could remain in office until negotiations with government over his retirement, are complete.
Mr Makhethe obtained the order after challenging government’s bid to remove him from office on the grounds that he had already exceeded the retirement age of 55 years.
But in a new turn of events, five police officers came to Mr Makhethe’s office on 26 August 2014 and handed him a letter signed by Mr Mphaka, which advised him to go on special leave.
The police then ordered Mr Makhethe to leave office with immediate effect, prompting him to file an urgent application in the High Court on Thursday last week, praying for Dr Thabane, Mr Mphaka and Mr Tšooana to be held in contempt.
Addressing the court on Tuesday, Advocate Penzhorn said the trio should be held in contempt because “they took the law into their own hands”.
“Whatever the disagreement, be it about the retirement age or something else, you don’t take the law into your own hands.”
If Mr Mphaka wanted to serve Mr Makhethe with the letter, he could have used other “decent” means, Advocate Penzhorn said.
“In fact, the letter could have been faxed or hand-delivered to him as usual. But the fact that five policemen came to him means the intention was simply to physically remove him from his office.
“There is another defence that the Prime Minister has the right to send the applicant on special leave.
“I have never heard of anything called special leave; it’s not even contained in labour relations practices. In fact, this is a suspension. Whatever they term it, it is an interference with his job. “According to the constitution, the attorney general does not work for the prime minister and his appointment is only done by the King,” he said.
However, the respondents’ lawyer, Advocate Kananelo Mosito (KC), said he would only present his written submission to the presiding judge, yesterday.
Meanwhile, Justice Thamsanqa Nomncongo said he would notify the lawyers when he would be ruling on the case.
In his court papers, Mr Makhethe wants the respondents to “restore my office as well as all the things necessary for me to exercise fully, my powers as Attorney General of Lesotho”.