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Court blocks AG dismissal

By Billy Ntaote

Attorney General (AG) Tšokolo Makhethe
Attorney General (AG) Tšokolo Makhethe

The High Court has issued an interim order nullifying government’s decision to retire Attorney General (AG) Tšokolo Makhethe (pictured).
Mr Makhethe was ordered, through a letter written by Acting Government Secretary, Moahloli Mphaka, on Monday last week, to vacate office “with immediate effect” because he had reached the
retirement age of 55 years.

But the High Court has ordered he continues as AG, while discussions about his future, continue with the government.
Mr Makhethe (58) is being represented by Advocate Heinrich Hjalmar Turpin Woker of Webber Newdigate law firm in the case. Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, in
ordering that Mr Makhethe should return to work on 19 June — three days after he was given his marching orders — noted: “In the interim, the Attorney General will continue to function as such and will retain his benefits. The keys and car are to be returned to him.
“If this case does come to court, the status quo shall be maintained until the matter is finalised.”

According to Mr Makhethe’s affidavit, he was appointed Attorney General on 7 August 2006, and says he continued holding office beyond the age of 55 after communicating his intention — and being given permission — to stay on until 60, by the Ministry of Public Service Principal Secretary, following the enactment of the Public Service Act 2005.

Mr Makhethe is asking the respondents — the prime minister, government secretary, minister of human rights, law and constitutional affairs and the office of the attorney general/deputy attorney general — to show cause why he should not continue working as Attorney General. He says the respondents should give reasons why the court cannot order that under the Lesotho constitution, his
retirement age is 60 and not 55 and that, accordingly, he is still the lawful incumbent of the AG post.

Mr Makhethe has also asked the respondents to show cause why they cannot be “interdicted and restrained from interfering with or preventing him from continuing to discharge his duties as the duly appointed Attorney General of Lesotho… and alternatively, taking such steps to set aside any steps that may have been taken to that effect.”
He also prays, in the court papers, that the respondents should be “interdicted and restrained from, in any way, depriving, removing, restraining or otherwise taking away his salary and all his other benefits and entitlements and privileges that he presently enjoys as the duly appointed Attorney General of Lesotho.”

The perks, he adds, include “but not limited to”, his salary, motor vehicle, housing and pension, cell-phone benefits “and any other benefits of any nature whatsoever attached to his person as the Attorney General.”
He also prayed to the court that the respondents be “restrained and interdicted from advising His Majesty, King Letsie III, to appoint another person as the Attorney General” pending the outcome of his application.

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