DESPITE Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s withdrawal of his bid to suspend and impeach Court of Appeal president Justice Kananelo Mosito, the Law Society of Lesotho is wary of the premier and fears he could still make another move to impeach the apex court boss in future.
Such is the Law Society’s distrust of Dr Thabane that the society on Friday pursued its Court of Appeal application to have him interdicted from suspending Justice Mosito. This is despite the fact that Dr Thabane on Wednesday agreed an out of court settlement with the Professor Nqosa Mahao-led faction of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) to unconditionally withdraw his 5 July 2019 letter to Justice Mosito demanding that he “show cause” why he should not be suspended and impeached.
Dr Thabane wanted to impeach Justice Mosito for allegedly interfering with the administrative functions of Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase.
Dr Thabane’s move to suspend Justice Mosito elicited a local and international outcry by various organisations who condemned the move as an assault on the independence of the judiciary. The move was also challenged in two separate Court of Appeal applications by the Law Society of Lesotho and the Mahao faction.
Prof Mahao, ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele, chairperson Samuel Rapapa, spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and deputy spokesperson ‘Matebatso Doti were the applicants while Dr Thabane, Justice Mahase and Attorney General, Advocate Haae Phoofolo were first to third respondents respectively.
The Mahao application was supposed to be heard on Wednesday 24 July 2019 but it did not proceed after Dr Thabane agreed an out of court deal with the Mahao camp to withdraw his 5 July 2019 “show cause” letter to Justice Mosito. In the same settlement, Justice Mahase also agreed to withdraw her 27 May 2019 letter accusing Justice Mosito of interfering with her administrative functions. Justice Mahase’s letter was seized upon by Dr Thabane and used as the basis for the latter’s 5 July 2019 letter to Justice Mosito demanding that the apex court boss “show cause” why he should not be suspended and impeached for interfering with the functions of the chief justice’s office.
The deed of settlement which was subsequently endorsed by Court of Appeal judges, Petrus Damaseb (presiding judge), Moses Chinhengo and Tafuma Mtshiya states that “the first and second respondents (Dr Thabane and Justice Mahase) hereby unequivocally withdraw letters that they have hitherto written to the President of the Court of Appeal”.
“The parties herein agree that the (Mahao and others’) application (challenging the planned suspension of Justice Mosito) is amicably settled and consequently withdrawn and each party will bear its own costs,” the parties stated in the deed of settlement.
It had been expected that following the Wednesday out of court settlement, the Law Society would drop its separate Court of Appeal application to have Dr Thabane interdicted from suspending and impeaching Justice Mosito. However, the Law Society still pursued its application on Friday to ensure that Dr Thabane would not in future write another “show cause” letter to Justice Mosito for the same reasons of alleged interference with Justice Mahase’s administrative functions.
Dr Thabane, Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase, King Letsie III and Attorney General are cited as first to fourth respondents respectively.
Addressing the apex court on Friday, the Law Society’s lawyer, Advocate Monaheng Rasekoai, said despite the out of court settlement, there was nothing blocking Dr Thabane from writing Justice Mosito another letter based on similar contents therefore he (Dr Thabane) should be interdicted to ensure he does not do it in future.
“The Prime Minister’s act and utterances draw a lot of public interest and it was not right for him to have written such a letter in that manner,” argued Adv Rasekoai.
“When one is a public figure, he is not at large to author a letter to a sitting judge, threatening him with suspension and then just decide to withdraw the letter. He cannot do as he pleases.
“The (“show cause”) letter may have been withdrawn but the suspension remains a live controversy because there is nothing blocking the Prime Minister to advise the King to suspend the Court of Appeal president.”
However, the defendants’ lawyer, Advocate Ranale Thoahlane, argued that the withdrawal of the letter renders the case mute as there was no suspension being challenged anymore.
“The suspension is no longer alive but academic because the (“show cause”) letter has been withdrawn and that was done through a court order which is binding. All issues that are being challenged through this application collapsed when the letter was withdrawn.
“The tribunal or inquiry into the suspension cannot be held without the letter therefore there will be no basis for an investigation of the Court of Appeal president. Withdrawing the letter automatically withdraws its contents,” Adv Thoahlane told the apex court bench comprising of Justices Petrus Damaseb (presiding judge from Namibia) and Zimbabweans, Moses Chinhengo and Tafuma Mtshiya.
The three judges reserved judgement to Friday 2 August 2019.