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Diplomat wins defamation case

Nat Molomo

MASERU — A local diplomat has won an M800 000 lawsuit against a high school teacher he claims defamed him in 2007.

Simon Phafane, the honorary consulate for Denmark in Lesotho, sued Sam Sakwa Napokoli, a teacher at Moshoeshoe II High School, for claiming he had looted the school’s coffers.

Phafane was at the time chairman of the school’s management board.

In his court papers, Phafane claimed that Napokoli, a Ugandan national, published the scathing and damaging remarks in a document entitled “Moshoeshoe High School Today”.

Phafane said in that document Napokoli had made damaging but unsubstantiated allegations against him as the chairman of the school board.

“The once mighty and unique school is a shadow of itself chronically ill-infected with viruses of self-seekers in management positions entrenched to plunder it,” Napokoli is alleged to have written in the document.

The teacher is also alleged to have claimed that under Phafane’s leadership “corruption and chronic lies are the order of the day” at the school.

“It has in its midst scavengers which are picking the little last bits of the carcass,” the Ugandan is alleged to have said.

He is also alleged to have said Phafane’s board had turned the school into “a personal property influencing policy and decisions using all vices, fear, terror, manipulations, lies (deception), corruption, greed, malice and cunningness”.

The document further alleged that when the school received fees for sponsored students Phafane and the principal “forget all about these poor students, embark on a financial spending spree and neglect urgent school needs”.

When the case came to court on Friday, Napokoli and his lawyer were nowhere to be found.

Phafane told the court that Napokoli’s allegations were false.

“This report tarnishes my integrity,” Phafane said. 

“Since then some of them are still doubtful about my honesty and I believe that my integrity has been tarnished, and some of them did not believe when I told them that the report was false.”

The document was circulated to members of staff members and management.

Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane granted a default judgment after Phafane concluded his evidence and his counsel, Shale Shale, indicated that neither the defendant nor his lawyers were present despite having been informed of the hearing date.

Justice Hlajoane ruled that Napokoli should pay M800 000 in damages to Phafane.

He also ruled that he must pay an interest of 18.5 percent and Phafane’s legal costs.

The Sunday Express however understands that Phafane is unlikely to get that money because Napokoli has since disappeared.

There is speculation that he has gone back to Uganda.

If this is true then Phafane will have to pick up the tab for his legal costs.

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