Judge upholds Manyokole suspension
- tempers flare in court over Manyokole’s vow that he won’t be ousted by “agents of Lucifer”.
THE director general of the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Mahlomola Manyokole, remains suspended. This after High Court Judge Moroke Mokhesi on Thursday rejected his bid to be reinstated pending the finalisation of his application to stop Prime Minister Moeketsi from removing him from office.
Without giving reasons for his decision, Justice Mokhesi declined to temporarily reinstate Adv Manyokole. He said he would only give his reasons when he eventually hands down his judgement on Adv Manyokole’s application for final reliefs to stop the premier from ousting him as well as for the nullification of the tribunal that was set up by Dr Majoro to probe his fitness to remain in office.
The judge reserved judgement after hearing arguments from Adv Manyokole’s lawyer, Adv Tekane Maqakachane and respondents’ lawyers, Attorney Monaheng Rasekoai and Adv Christopher Lephuthing.
Dr Majoro, Justice and Law Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao, Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane, Attorney General Haae Phoofolo, the Tribunal on the Removal of Director General of the DCEO, retired Judges Teboho Moiloa, Semapo Peete and Justice Polo Banyane are first to eighth respondents respectively in the application.
Justice Mokhesi was also told of how Adv Manyokole had angered Dr Majoro and Mahao by allegedly boasting to DCEO staff in an internal memo that he would not be ousted by “agents of Lucifer”.
The acerbic remarks were in protest of Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao’s efforts to dismiss Adv Manyokole from the post to which he was appointed in July 2019 by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Dr Majoro suspended Adv Manyokole on 7 January 2021 — the same day Justice Mokhesi was due to hear his application to stop the suspension as well as nullify the tribunal established to inquire into his fitness to remain in office.
It was initially expected that Justice Mokhesi would rule on Adv Manyokole’s application for interim reliefs the same day but due to the late filing of the respondents’ papers, the arguments were deferred to last Thursday.
Presenting his client’s case on Thursday, Adv Maqakachane argued that Adv Manyokole had been wrongfully suspended on the basis of allegations which could not be substantiated by any evidence. He therefore asked the court to rescind the suspension. He also argued that the tribunal to inquire into Adv Manyokole’s fitness to remain in office was illegal.
“It is said that the applicant (Manyokole) was seen carrying files and therefore wanted to sabotage the DCEO and national security.
“Even the sources relied upon (by Majoro and Mahao) have not supplied any affidavits as evidence to their claims. Even Mr Likotsi (DCEO investigator) paints the applicant (Adv Manyokole) as an incompetent bad person but says nothing on allegations of sabotage. Mr Manyokole says he is still the director general and he normally took work home. They cannot pile a mountain of allegations without evidence,” Adv Maqakachane argued.
“The respondents, as state functionaries, have to act in good faith. The applicant has a five-year contract and therefore has rights. It is a precondition to first ask the applicant to make representations and also be issued with a notice before the establishment of a tribunal.
“The legal notice (gazette establishing the tribunal) is null and void. Firstly, it is vague in that it does not state the purpose for which the tribunal is set up. Secondly the prime minister must pose a question on whether the director general must be removed for inability to perform duties or misbehaviour. But the legal notice is silent on that, even the tribunal is in the dark as to what it is expected to inquire,” Adv Maqakachane further argued.
On his part, Mr Rasekoai counter-argued that Adv Manyokole was suspended because he not only posed a national security threat but he had also implicated the premier, Minister Mahao and other prominent persons in crimes yet they had not been charged.
He also argued that there was no court order barring the government from suspending Adv Manyokole. Mr Rasekoai said Adv Manyokole had forfeited his right to a hearing before being suspended because he had failed to respond to the 29 December 2020 letter from Prof Mahao demanding that he “show cause” why he should not be suspended ahead of the tribunal’s inquiry into his fitness to remain in office.
“The director general implicates a judge (retired Justice Teboho Moiloa), the first Mosotho to head the Standard Lesotho Bank (Mpho Vumbukani), the prime minister and the minister. These are sound grounds for suspending the director general. By his own actions of filing the affidavit containing these allegations, he is in breach of the laws which govern the institution he is leading.
“He (Manyokole) complains that he was not given a hearing but when he is asked to make a representation, he ignores that and instead launches collateral proceedings.
“Appearing before a tribunal does not actually mean he is fired. The results may go either way. He should go to the tribunal and clear his name. On the issue of the grounds of removal, incapacity is not restricted to the mind, it can also include incompetence. The legal notice does not have to include the charges but terms of reference which established the tribunal. The charges can be disclosed at a later stage,” Mr Rasekoai argued.
Adv Lephuthing echoed similar sentiments and added that Adv Manyokole had come to court prematurely and therefore the court lacked the authority to entertain his application.
“The tribunal is just like a commission of inquiry set up by the prime minister and issues of national security are matters for the executive to deal with and not the courts. The courts cannot entertain this matter at this stage as that can only happen after the tribunal has issued a report.
“He (Adv Manyokole) wants the recusal of the tribunal. He should first appear before the tribunal and tell Justice Moiloa what he thinks of him. If the judge refuses to recuse himself then he can come here for review,” Adv Lephuthing argued.
Mr Rasekoai also accused Adv Manyokole of using intemperate language which showed his contempt for Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao.
He called on the court to punish Adv Manyokole by ordering him to pay the highest legal costs possible as punishment for using such language.
He said after being suspended, Adv Manyokole allegedly wrote a memo to DCEO staffers, saying he would not be removed by the devil and his subordinates. He said he would only be removed by God who had made him director general of the DCEO.
Part of Adv Manyokole’s memo to the DCEO staff states, “I am not perfect like Christ Jesus but I believe he is the one who planted me here at the DCEO and if he feels I have to go, I will certainly abide but it shall not be by the will of Lucifer or his servants”.
Mr Rasekoai said this statement by Adv Manyokole should be regarded as an insult to Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao.
“This is a memorandum of a public functionary — the head of a very sensitive institution.
“He says he will not vacate his office by the will of the devil or his servants. This is unbecoming. There is a trail of examples that can be drawn from his affidavits of unjustified and unwarranted attacks which is unbecoming of a professional.
“I think his Lordship should censure of his conduct. In the event that we are successful, we pray that costs be awarded on a punitive scale. He (Manyokole) should be saddled with costs on account of this vile language which is laid bare throughout the proceedings,” Mr Rasekoai argued.
However, Adv Maqakachane argued that Adv Manyokole should not be penalised for a memo which was directed to DCEO staff and not to Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao.
“Mr Rasekoai points to the memo that the applicant has written and then says it does not accord with the decorum of the court.
“That memo was penned by the director general of the DCEO to his own staff. Whatever he says to the staff cannot now be transmogrified into an assertion that he is now becoming intemperate to the court. That is not the case,” Adv Maqakachane argued.
After listening to both sides, Justice Mokhesi reserved his judgement. He said he would only announce the date of the judgement when he had finished writing it. He also declined to grant the interim prayer to lift Adv Manyokole’s suspension saying there was no need to do so.
“The interim prayers are no longer of any purpose now. I find that the conduct of the minister or the prime minister in continuing to suspend the director general despite the fact that the matter was pending before this court cannot be assailed. I therefore do not grant interim reliefs. I will give reasons. In the result, I reserve my judgement and you will be notified when my judgement is ready,” Justice Mokhesi ruled.