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Confusion mars opposition march

By Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Confusion marred a march organised by opposition leaders on Monday to pressure the judiciary to deal with corruption cases they said were mounting in the courts.
So disorganised were the marchers that in the end it became unclear what their gripe was with the Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla.
The opposition leaders, who were supposed to be at the forefront of the march, did not even bother to attend the procession that had been organised to start from ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre.
Instead of joining the marchers, Basotho National Party (BNP)’s Thesele ’Maseribane, All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s Thomas Thabane and Moeketse Malebo of the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) drove straight to the chief justice’s chambers at the High Court.
That left ex-soldier Hosanna Sako to lead a group of only seven protestors in the march.
Sako’s entourage was made up of four women from the BNP, a photographer linked to the ABC and a man whose political affiliation is not known.
The seven protesters, who carried placards written “Chief Justice should let justice be done”, were escorted by a minibus full of uniformed police, a van that controlled traffic, two sedans from the National Security Service and several plain-clothed police officers.
There were more law enforcement officials than protestors.
Sako’s group ended its march at Moshoeshoe I Statue.
“We are aware that the police have investigated many corruption cases that are now before courts but the courts do not dispense with them for reasons known only to themselves,” Sako told journalists after the march.
“There are 41 cases of serious corruption that are pending in courts and the Chief Justice must see to it that they are heard as soon as possible,” he said.
“We know that the courts can sit even on weekends or at night and we ask the Chief Justice to give these cases the urgency they deserve.”
Sako said they were giving the chief justice a seven-day ultimatum starting from tomorrow “or else we will take further steps.”
Sako was reading from a petition that was however not submitted to the chief justice.
That petition was totally different from the one that the opposition leaders handed to the chief justice when they met him briefly at his chambers.
Instead of complaining about the pending corruption cases in the High Court the leaders accused the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Leaba Thetsane, of sitting on corruption cases that the police have submitted for prosecution.
Thabane later told the marchers that they had met the chief justice to complain about the DPP.
“We know that the cases we reported have not been brought before the courts,” he said.
He said the chief justice had promised to deal with the issue.
It is however not clear why the leaders took their complaint about the DPP to the chief justice.
Nor is it clear why the chief justice could have promised to deal with a matter that does not fall under his jurisdiction.
Under the law, the DPP falls under the attorney general and not the chief justice.
The two are different entities with separate roles although they have complimentary functions in the judiciary.
The role of the DPP is to bring criminal cases to the court.
It is the court that decides whether crime has been committed or not.
The DPP is not answerable to the chief justice.
It is answerable to the attorney general who, by definition, is the chief government lawyer.
The chief justice runs the High Court, Magistrate court and all other courts apart from the Court of Appeal.
When asked why they opted to take their complaints against the DPP to the chief justice instead of the attorney general Thabane said the leaders believed the chief justice was the one who should deal with the issue.
“The chief justice should hear this and take appropriate action. We couldn’t go to the DPP and put pressure on him to bring cases to the courts because we wanted to report him,” Thabane said.

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