MASERU — The Court of Appeal has ruled that a High Court judge erred when she gave an order compelling the government to grant Eyob Asemie citizenship.
Asemie, an Ethiopian businessman, has been fighting to be granted Lesotho citizenship for the past two years.
In August High Court judge Justice “Maseforo Mahase ordered the home affairs ministry to give Asemie a naturalisation certificate and declare him a Lesotho citizen.
She also ordered that Asemie should not be charged for his alleged illegal conduct before the order.
The Ministry had however appealed to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the judge had erred in issuing those orders.
On Friday Justice Noel Hurt agreed with the ministry’s argument.
Other appellants were the military police, army commander, commissioner of police, Minister of Police, and the Attorney-General.
Justice Hurt said Justice Mahase should not have issued the order to grant Asamie citizenship because there was clear evidence that he had not met the requirements to be granted such status.
He said he was inclined to agree with the appellants’ assertion that Asemie’s claim that he came to Lesotho in 2003 was a lie.
The judge said the appellant had proved that Asemie came to Lesotho in 2005 and not 2003 as he claims.
In his affidavit, Asemie claimed that he only made the application for refugee status in 2005.
Also in his application form for refugee status Asemie said he had arrived in Lesotho in August 2005.
The government has in the past maintained that apart from the fact that Asemie provided a false date for his arrival in Lesotho there is also ample evidence that he came here on a business mission.
During the Court of Appeal hearing the appellant submitted more evidence to prove this assertion. In July 2005 Asemie had applied for a Lesotho visa through an Ethiopian company called Solomon General Importer.
The letter said Asemie was the purchasing manager of Solomon General Importer and he was on a business mission with another manager to conclude a deal with an exporting company in Lesotho.
Solomon General Importer wanted to export coffee from Ethiopia to Lesotho and import water from Lesotho to Ethiopia. In another document presented by the appellant, Asemie said he was arrested in Ethiopia in May 2005.
This document, the judge said, proves beyond doubt that Asemie was in Ethiopia in 2005.
“This conclusion disposes of the respondent’s claim to be entitled to a certificate of naturalisation,” Judge Hurt said in his 17-page judgment.
“The result is that I consider that Justice Mahase erred in her assessment of the evidence and the orders which she granted must be set aside.”
Justice Hurt also criticised Justice Mahase’s ruling that Asemie should not be charged for any alleged criminal conduct prior to August 15, 2012.
He said in his legal career of more than 40 years he had never seen a “procedural step which, on its own, bristles with as many irregularities as the grant of this ex-parte order”.
He noted that even Asemie’s legal team had “readily and properly agreed that the order was insupportable”.
Advocate Rapelang Motsieloa appeared for appellants while Advocate Sipho Mdhluli and Advocate Tekane Maqakachane represented the respondent.