MASERU — A High Court judge on Wednesday withdrew from a case after he allegedly received a mysterious phone call from an unidentified person who claimed to have an interest in a matter that was before him.
Justice Semapo Peete, who was presiding over a case in which local businessman Makhoabe Mohaleroe and retired politician Moeketsi Tsatsanyane are fighting over control of the Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company (LPMTC), told the parties in his chambers that he was pulling out of the case.
It is not clear whether the caller threatened Justice Peete or tried to influence his decision in the case.
Justice Peete’s withdrawal came on the day he was supposed to hear arguments and decide whether Mohaleroe should be enjoined as an interested party in the case where Tsatsanyane and his board are challenging the registrar of companies for refusing to register them as directors in favour of Mohaleroe and his son Pule.
But instead of sitting in an open court, Justice Peete called lawyers for both parties to his chambers and told them that he could not preside over the case anymore.
LPMTC trustee Ishmael Monare, who is backing the Tsatsanyane-led board, said their lawyer, Tekane Maqakachane, told them Justice Peete had informed them that someone called Moshe had phoned him about the case.
It could not be established who Moshe was.
“Our lawyer told us that Judge Peete was withdrawing from the case because (one) Moshe called him last night,” Monare said.
“I wonder why he did not have the courage to withdraw at the inception of this case when one of the tenants (name supplied to this paper) had called him about the very same case,” he added.
“We are worried because he has withdrawn at a very critical time when he was about to hear the case and finally make a ruling as to whether Mohaleroe had any locus standi in this company.
“This case is in its final stage and we do not want any delays.”
This is not the first time that Justice Peete has received mysterious calls from interested parties while dealing with court cases.
Earlier in the case, Justice Peete told lawyers that some tenants at LPMTC’s property, which is at the centre of the fierce fight, had called him about the case.
Soon after that Mohaleroe’s lawyer, Mokorosi Chobokoane, challenged Justice Peete to withdraw from the case in light of the revelations.
Justice Peete’s response then was that he was aware of “his ethics” and would abide by them despite the calls.
On Wednesday afternoon Justice Peete told the lawyers that someone known as Moshe had called him the previous day and they had talked about the court case. This, he said, had informed his decision to withdraw.
Advocate Maqakachane, the lawyer for the Tsatsanyane-led board, refused to disclose details of their discussions with the judge in the chambers.
Maqakachane only confirmed that Justice Peete had withdrawn from the case.
“The honourable judge has withdrawn from the case,” Maqakachane said.
“It will be heard by another judge.”
Justice Peete’s withdrawal came barely five days after Judge Kelello Guni in a different sitting turned down Mohaleroe’s son’s similar application to be enjoined in the LPMTC case as an interested party.
Justice Guni dismissed Pule Mohaleroe’s application with costs on Thursday last week.
Pule had on February 8 filed an urgent application in the High Court seeking to intervene in the main case in which his father — Makhoabe Mohaleroe — obtained an order restraining the Tsatsanyane-led board from entering the LPMTC’s premises.
The Mohaleroes claim that they are the sole owners after the father bought shares from a board member who has since resigned, Thabang Moshe.
On the other hand the Tsatsanyane-led board says they are the legitimate board of directors after the owners of the company, the Lesotho Bus and Taxi Owners Association, appointed them as directors in November 2008.
Dismissing the application, Justice Guni said although Pule made a bold claim of directorship of the LPMTC, he did not attach a resolution to support his averments.
“His allegation is bare and unsupported,” justice Guni said.
She said the father, Mohaleroe, in his affidavit had attached a form which had LPMTC directors listed as S Mapheleba, AT Sello, EM Makhaba, SR Makoloane, T Moshe, Masopha Katiso.
Mohaleroe himself was described as a new appointee but Pule’s name was not there.
“His name does not appear among the names of directors or members of Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company,” Justice Guni said.
“According to his averment, his father Makhoabe Mohaleroe is a co-director with him.
“There is no proof of this allegation.
“There is no resolution from other members of the company. It must be false.
“I do not accept that he is a director of the company in the main application.”
She also dismissed as “unfounded” the claims that Pule would suffer prejudice.
“What prejudice? The applicant in the application for jointer does not mention the prejudice he is likely to suffer,” Justice Guni said.
“Because he has no relationship with the applicant company in the main application, Pule Mohaleroe will suffer no prejudice.
“He failed to prove his claim of directorship of that company.
“Therefore his application to intervene cannot succeed.”
Justice Guni went further to say the appointment of Pule’s father to the directorship was ambiguous because the dates on which he claimed he was appointed and the one on which Moshe resigned were not corresponding.
“The date of change, perhaps of his status as a director, is indicated as 30th June 2008,” she said.
“The change of status in the case of one other director — Mr T Moshe — is shown as 3rd June 2006.
“It appears that Mr T Moshe resigned on the 3rd June 2006.
“That makes ambiguous the alleged date of change of 30th June 2008 in respect of Mr Makhoabe Mohaleroe.”
Justice Guni also mentioned the argument that Mohaleroe could not be a director because he had a criminal record.
She said Koili Ndebele, a lawyer for the Tsatsanyane-led board, argued that “once a person is convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, he or she is disqualified to be a director of a company anywhere.
“It is not denied that Makhoabe Mohaleroe was convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty.
“It is clear that he is not and cannot be the director of any company.
“It is argued that he has been rehabilitated. How and when was he rehabilitated?
“There is no proof.
“Rehabilitation cannot be just presumed where there is no proof.
“Passage of time cannot per se be regarded as proof of rehabilitation.”