MASERU — The last time National Independent Party (NIP) leader Anthony Manyeli faced the state in a High Court match he won.
That was in August 2007 when the court declared him not guilty of contempt of court charges.
The state had laid the charges against him for allegedly disrespecting Appeal Court judge Mathealira Ramodibedi in an interview with the Public Eye newspaper.
That was round one.
But the crown refused to accept defeat and appealed against the High Court’s verdict.
The decision took 14 months to come but when it finally did, in October 2008, it was victory for the state.
The Appeal Court ruled that the matter had to be remitted back to the High Court for retrial.
That was round two.
And with that retrial order the Appeal Court pushed the Manyeli versus the state match into round three.
The third round started in the High Court on Tuesday.
The players are still the same as in the beginning.
Manyeli is still facing the same judge, Justice Kelello Guni, who discharged him in the first round.
He still has lawyer Thabang Khauoe by his side.
Crown counsel Denis Molyneaux is still his nemesis.
Still at the centre of the matter are statements he is alleged to have made against Justice Ramodibedi when he was interviewed about the decision the judge had made against him.
Manyeli had successfully challenged the Independent Electoral Commission’s decision to reject the list of NIP members eligible for proportional representation seats that he had submitted.
The decision in favour of Manyeli was however overturned by the Appeal Court and Justice Ramodibedi presided over the matter.
That is how Manyeli came to make the statement that the state now alleges was an insult to both the court and the judge.
“There could be many reasons for that. What Justice Ramodibedi did was a clear violation of the law and therefore it was a crime that must be brought before justice,” Manyeli was quoted as saying by the Public Eye in an interview aptly titled “Speaking piece of his mind”.
Although it was a wide-ranging interview, this is the part that irked the Attorney-General to lay contempt of court charges against Manyeli.
The Attorney-General said the statement suggested that Justice Ramodibedi and the court were “incompetent to a criminal degree and/or what it did was unlawful”.
But when Manyeli entered the dock on Tuesday he sought to claim that he was a victim of a bungled translation by the paper.
He denied responsibility for the English words that the paper had used in the article, saying he had spoken to the reporter in Sesotho.
“Those words are not mine and I’m not responsible for them,” Manyeli said.
“I have not said Ramodibedi should go to court, but the judgment was wrong.
“I never mentioned the names of anyone but I was talking about the judgment.
“To tell the truth I was not aware that there was something wrong about the interpretation of the words.
“I spoke in Sesotho but I’m being accused for what is written in English.
“These English words give me problems because I might be contemptuous.
“To do injustice is disgraceful.”
Manyeli said his concern was that the judicial system would be in chaos if the people who were responsible for administering justice were not performing their duties.
He said he had no control over what the newspaper wrote because they “publish their stories, not mine”.
A month after publishing the story the Public Eye issued an apology, saying the statement Manyeli had made about Ramodibedi had gone “beyond criticising the court decision but into attack of the judge”.
Manyeli told the court that the newspaper had made an apology about what it had written and not what he had said.
“The newspaper has published some of my stories and omitted others. It’s not my habit to correct newspapers,” he said.
“If I said so, it was a slip of the tongue. I did not say so.
“I first heard about the news article when people were talking about it.
“I did not buy the newspaper.
“I was telling the truth when I said the court had ignored section 69 (c) of the constitution.
“I was saying what happened.
“The decision of the High Court on the membership of parliament could not be appealed as was taken to the Appeal Court.”
The case has been postponed to February 12 next year.
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