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Businessman wins citizenship bid

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — High Court judge Justice ’Maseforo Mahase on Friday issued a final order directing the home affairs minister to swear-in controversial Mosotho-Ethiopian businessman Eyob Asemie as a citizen of Lesotho.
Justice Mahase’s final order says Home Affairs Minister Joang Molapo should swear-in Asemie within 14 days from Friday.
Other orders that included the arrest of Police Commissioner Kizito Mhlakaza for contempt of court and Asemie’s round-the-clock guard by the military police were dropped as they had been overtaken by events.
Delivering judgment Justice Mahase said it was mind-boggling that the Home Affairs Principal Secretary, Retšelisitsoe Khetsi, and the Commissioner of Refugees, Mohlolo Lerotholi, assisted Asemie to a certain extent in his application for citizenship only to later somersault and oppose him.
She said it was appalling that the state did not deem it crucial to seek former deputy prime minister Lesao Lehohla’s affidavit as he was the one who used his prerogative as home affairs minister to grant Asemie citizenship.
The judge also said it was odd that the former commissioner of refugees Francis Sefali’s affidavit was not attached to show that Asemie had acquired citizenship fraudulently as the state had alleged.
“I have not found a reason why the applicant (Asemie) was not sworn-in,” Justice Mahase said.
“The applicant has not enjoyed peace of mind because of persecution by the principal secretary,” she said.
The judge said the home affairs ministry should have heeded Ombudsman Alina Fanana’s December 2011 recommendation to swear-in Asemie as a Lesotho citizen.
The ministry had told Justice Mahase in opposing papers that the Ombudsman’s recommendation was not binding on them.
She said Lerotholi, who took over as the commissioner of refugees from Sefali, assisted Asemie by introducing him to various government officials so that his application for citizenship could be successful only for him to turn against him for no apparent reason.
The judge said no government official, including Lehohla, raised any objection when Asemie applied for citizenship but Khetsi later came up with a plan to derail his swearing-in “for reasons only known by him”.
“All the necessary formalities have been observed,” she said.
“Khetsi is actually asking the registrar general not to issue the certificate of naturalisation. Why does it have to be the principal secretary who has to derail naturalisation?”
Asemie was supposed to have appeared before Lehohla together with 12 others to be sworn in as Lesotho citizens in February but his name was struck off the roll despite the Ombudsman’s recommendation.
That was the third time that Asemie failed to be sworn-in because the state alleged that he is a criminal masquerading as a refugee.
His first attempt to be sworn-in was in August 2010 but when he entered the ceremony hall “he was snubbed, shouted at and humiliated by utterances of an order that he must leave the ceremony hall or else the police will be called to throw him out.”
Asemie’s second attempt was in March last year but the immigration department struck off his name from the list of naturalised people.
In February this year Asemie’s name was removed yet again despite Fanana’s warning that “blocking his glorious day to take an oath, and for that matter twice in the process . . . is a discriminatory act and an abuse of office”.

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