AG baulks at paying M95 000 bill
PROMINENT lawyer, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho’s law firm, Mosotho Attorneys, has a battle on its hands to get the M95 000 it billed the government as legal fees for successfully defending the state in a case brought against in 2018 by the former ambassador to China, Lebohang Ntšinyi.
This after Attorney General Haae Phoofolo wrote to the Law and Constitutional Affairs principal secretary, Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae, to justify why the state should pay the bill. Adv Phoofolo’s argument that the state should not be paying the firm because its head, Attorney Mosotho, is the Lesotho government’s representative at the bi-national Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC).
Mosotho Attorneys has claimed M94 950 in legal fees from the Lesotho government for successfully defending the state against Ms Ntšinyi in 2018.
Ms Ntšinyi wanted the court to interdict Foreign Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi from recalling her from her ambassadorial post. Her case was however dismissed after she failed to demonstrate why the government should not recall her.
On 4 March 2020, Mosotho Attorneys wrote to Foreign Affairs principal secretary, ‘Mamonyane Bohloko, demanding payment in the tune of M94 950. Mosotho Attorneys billed the Foreign Affairs as the client ministry.
The firm indicated that the M94 950 bill included M100 for “attending to receive notice of appeal and grounds of appeal” and M500 for attending to peruse notice of appeal and grounds of appeal”.
M800 was charged for taking instructions to oppose the appeal, another M100 was for attending to receive record proceedings and M9000 for perusing the record of proceedings.
The state was further billed M100 for attending to receive appellant’s heads of argument; M2300 for attending to peruse appellant’s heads of argument; M7500 for research on authorities referred to in appellant’s heads of argument and M20 000 for research for the purpose of drafting the heads of argument.
The firm also demanded that the government pays M1650 for “attending to draft heads of argument; M100 for attending to serve and file heads of argument and M25 000 for court attendance”.
Further amounts of M25 000, M100, M2500, M100 and M100 are for “court attendance, attending to receive copy of the written judgement, attending to peruse judgement, attending to draw letter to the principal secretary, attending to serve the letter” respectively.
Mosotho Attorneys’ letter, seen by this publication, was copied to the office of Attorney General.
“Kindly find enclosed herein the bill of legal fees in the sum of M94 950 due and owing to Mosotho Attorneys in the above-mentioned matter,” part of the letter reads.
The letter was copied to the office of the Attorney General which advises the state on legal issues.
Adv Phoofolo however, says he has “serious problems” with regards to authorising the payment because of Attorney Mosotho’s current employment at the LHWC.
In his recent letter to Rtd Col Mothae, Adv Phoofolo stated, “Ntate principal secretary, I have a serious problem here for which your guidance is needed.
“This is in regards to paying Mr Mosotho’s firm yet Mr Mosotho is employed in Lesotho Highlands Development Authority now.”
Contacted for comment, Rtd Col Mothae said he was not aware of Mosotho Attorneys’ bill and referred this reporter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On her part, Foreign Affairs principal secretary, Ms Bohloko, said the Law and Constitutional Affairs ministry was best placed to respond to any questions on the matter.
She said Mosotho Attorneys was engaged by the office of Attorney General on behalf of her ministry way before she joined the ministry.
“This was done before I joined the ministry through the office of Attorney General. I would not know how he (Attorney Mosotho) was engaged while he was working there (LHWC.
“But I clearly remember questioning his legal fees, saying they are very high and that it was as if he was a senior advocate like Penzhorn yet he (Mosotho) was charging the government,” Ms Bohloko said.
Adv Guido Heinz Penzhorn is a Durban-based senior council who was hired by the state to defend Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase against All Basotho Convention (ABC) secretary general Lebohang Hlaele.
Between 29 September and 10 October 2019, Adv Penzhorn charged the Lesotho government M212 285, 58.
On his part, Attorney Mosotho said “As far as I am aware, the client (Foreign Affairs) has not said anything to the office (Mosotho Attorneys)”.
This is the second time that Attorney Mosotho’s job at the LHWC come to the spotlight. It first came under microscope last July when Mr Hlaele asked Attorney Mosotho to choose between practicing as a lawyer and the lucrative post at the LHWC. Mosotho Attorneys had represented an ABC faction believed to be loyal to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane against Mr Hlaele’s faction in a fight for control of the party.