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Former spy chief’s reinstatement bid hits snag

Mohalenyane Phakela

Former National Security Service (NSS) boss Colonel Tumo Lekhooa faces a default judgement in his reinstatement case.

This after his lawyer, Advocate Motiea Teele, this week notified the courts of his withdrawal from the case saying he had lost contact with the former spy chief and there was no way of getting instructions from his “missing client”.

The former NSS boss was appointed by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in September 2016. But upon assuming power, current Prime Minister Thomas Thabane reassigned him to his old post as director of military intelligence.

He later fled to South Africa in November 2017 allegedly to escape the government’s attempt to assassinate him. But the government insists he fled to escape prosecution for various crimes including the June 2015 murder of former army commander, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.

Before his flight, Col Lekhooa had challenged his removal from the NSS in the High Court in August 2017 and he continued to pursue the case from South Africa. Justices Semapo Peete, Molefi Makara and Moroke Mokhesi granted his petition in October 2019.

Dissatisfied with the High Court judgement, the government appealed to the apex court.

Mr Thabane, Defence and National Security Minister Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister Habofanoe Lehana and Attorney General Haae Phoofolo are the first to fourth applicants respectively.

The appeal is one of the 24 cases pencilled in for the apex court’s first session for 2020 from 12 to 29 May 2020. But it is unlikely to be heard after Adv Teele withdrew from the case on Thursday, saying he had lost contact with Col Lekhooa.

Adv Teele initially told the court that he lost contact with Col Lekhooa on Tuesday when the case was read out on the court roll as one of those to be heard during the current session.

“I have lost contact with my client. I cannot locate him on the phone numbers we have been using to communicate and therefore I do not have instructions on how to proceed,” Adv Teele KC said.

Court of Appeal Judge Petrus Damaseb then gave Adv Teele until Thursday to re-establish communication with Col Lekhooa before a decision is made to “either postpone the case or remove it from the roll”.

On Thursday, the deputy registrar of the Court of Appeal, Advocate Realeboha Makamane, told the Sunday Express that Adv Teele informed the court that he still had not established contact with Col Lekhooa.

Adv Makamane said Adv Teele also submitted a letter withdrawing from the case due to his failure to locate Col Lekhooa. Adv Makamane said the apex court will decide what happens next on 29 May 2020 when it delivers judgements for all the cases to be heard during this session.

“Adv Teele has filed his letter withdrawing from the case and I forwarded it to the judges to determine the fate of this matter,” Adv Makamane said.

Asked if there could be a default judgement against Col Lekhooa, he said, “I cannot say what will happen. The judges will pronounce themselves on 29 May 2020 when they deliver judgements of all the cases before them”.

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