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Court-martial proceedings blocked

Tefo Tefo

 MASERU — The High Court on Thursday stopped court-martial proceedings against an army officer who is opposing the government’s compulsory pension scheme for civil servants.

Captain Bulane Sechele, a lawyer in the army’s legal department, was supposed to face a court-martial trial tomorrow for querying the constitutionality of the pension scheme that was introduced by the government for civil servants.

The government proposed the scheme in 2008 through an Act of parliament which came into force in August 2008.

Sechele’s trial arose from the research he carried out on the legality of the scheme.

He is accused of distributing his findings on the scheme to junior soldiers without approval from his superiors

In his application Sechele said because he is challenging the constitutionality of the scheme the court-martial must be stayed.

Having a court martial before the outcome of that constitutional challenge would prejudice his case, Sechele argued.

High Court Judge Tšeliso Monaphathi agreed with Sechele and ruled that the court-martial be stayed.

“After having heard the applicant in person and Mr (Denis Peter) Molyneaux for the respondents, and having considered the papers filed of record, the following order, by consent, is made: “The second respondent (Brigadier Victor Mohapi) is restrained from commencing with the court-martial trial against the applicant on the 18th day of October 2010, pending the finalisation of the Constitutional Case No. 6/2010, which is to be heard on the 8th day of November 2010,” Justice Monaphathi said.

In his convening order of October 5, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili appointed Mohapi as the president of the court-martial to try Sechele.

Mosisili had also appointed a senior lawyer from South Africa, Advocate Henry Viljoen, to prosecute Sechele’s case in the court-martial.

However, Justice Monaphathi’s order also provided an opportunity for Sechele to file another constitutional application against some provisions of the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996.

Sechele is expected to file the new constitutional application by Friday so that it could be heard simultaneously with the one in which he is challenging the constitutionality of the government pension scheme for soldiers.

Justice Monaphathi’s order means that the court-martial will not convene.

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