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Justice Mahase vs Mosisili constitutional case postponed

Nat Molomo

MASERU — A constitutional case in which High Court judge Justice ’Maseforo Mahase is suing former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili over the contents of the Steyn Report was postponed to July 19. The case was postponed before Justice Suled Potterril on Tuesday in the High Court. Justice Mahase is suing on the basis of a report compiled by Justice Jan Hendrick Steyn into the April 22, 2009 attacks at State House and Makoanyane military barracks.

The report criticised Justice Mahase’s July 2007 judgment in which she ordered the release of five men who were accused of spearheading the political disturbances and attacks on government ministers’ houses. The report said it was particularly concerned that the late Makotoko “Mashai” Lerotholi, the man accused of leading the April 2009 attacks, was among the five men that were released following Justice Mahase’s orders.

Justice Mahase released the five after the then Chief Magistrate Molefi Makara had referred the case to the High Court to determine whether he had jurisdiction to “entertain the lawfulness” of the suspects’ detention. Through an interim order Makara had ordered that they should be kept in protective custody. The High Court said it could not hear the matter because the appeal raised a constitutional matter and ordered that the record of proceedings be typed and sent back for the attention of the Constitutional Court.

The Steyn Report said Justice Mahase did not follow proper procedures when she ordered the release of the five men who were facing charges of high treason, a charge that has incensed the judge. The report also claimed that Justice Mahase did not give the police or the army a chance to present arguments to show that further detention of the accused was justified.
The report said this was a clear example of what happens “if due process of law is not followed in granting bail”. After his release in 2007 Lerotholi, a former military officer, fled to South Africa from where the state alleges he masterminded the April 22 attacks that left four mercenaries dead and 11 arrested.

Justice Mahase’s lawyer, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, has argued in court papers that the contents of the Steyn Report angered the judge. Before the case was postponed, Mda told Justice Potterrill that that the case had been pending for two years and they would be ready with their extensive heads of arguments when the case resumes on July 19.

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