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Mosito cleared of tax charges


. . . as another obstacle to swearing-in is removed

Tefo Tefo

ANOTHER legal hurdle to Justice Kananelo Mosito’s swearing-in as Court of Appeal president has been removed after the High Court cleared him of 19 counts of tax-related criminal charges he was facing.

Justice Semapo Peete made the order on Thursday after reading the charges to Justice Mosito who pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution accepted Justice Mosito’s plea, which left Justice Peete with no option but to clear him of the charges.

The development comes in the wake of Acting Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane’s decision early this month to withdraw the case in which Justice Mosito was charged with failing to file tax returns to the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) between 1996 and 2014.

The clearing of the charges is a setback for four lawyers challenging Justice Kananelo Mosito’s reappointment as the apex court’s president by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 1 August 2017.

Justice Mosito was reappointed by Dr Thabane eight months after he was forced to resign to avoid impeachment over tax evasion charges by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led former government.

Two weeks after his reappointment, King’s Counsel Zwelakhe Mda, Karabo Mohau, Motiea Teele and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, lodged a constitutional application in which they argue that Dr Thabane did not follow due process when he advised His Majesty to re-appoint Justice Mosito.

They also contend that the removal of his predecessor, Justice Robert Nugent, to accommodate Justice Mosito was illegal.

The lawyers aver that Justice Nugent’s removal did not follow the due process of law because he was not given a hearing, while a tribunal to remove him from the position was also not established as a constitutional requirement. Justice Nugent had been appointed to the helm of the apex court in May this year.

Justice Mosito, Dr Thabane, Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs Lebohang Hlaele, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Mahali Phamotse and the Attorney-General are the first to fifth respondents respectively.

The legal challenge resulted in the halting of Justice Mosito’s swearing-in as president of the apex court by Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara on 18 August 2017. As a result, the Court of Appeal’s second session, which normally sits in October, will not sit until the matter is resolved. The president assembles the Court of Appeal and sets the dates for its sitting.

The opinions of lawyers who spoke to the Sunday Express on condition of anonymity yesterday were mixed, on the development, with some surmising that his swearing-in could now proceed since the case lodged by the lawyers had been rendered academic.

However, other legal practitioners posited that Justice Mosito could not be reappointed because the court did not nullify King Letsie III’s decision to remove Justice Mosito from the helm of the Court of Appeal on 23 December 2016.

Justice Mosito was first appointed Court of Appeal president in January 2015, taking over from Justice Michael Ramodibedi who had also resigned after losing a protracted legal battle to stop his impeachment for alleged abuse of office.

However, not long after Justice Mosito’s appointment, King Letsie III appointed a three-member tribunal in February 2016, at the advice of then premier Dr Mosisili, to investigate him for allegedly failing to pay income tax between 1996 and 2014.

The tribunal was comprised of Chairperson, Justice Frederik Daniel Jacobus Brand, Justice Noel Victor Hurt, and Justice John Godfrey Foxcroft all from South Africa. The tribunal completed its proceedings on 20 October, 2016 and submitted its report to King Letsie III.

Justice Mosito resigned before a verdict was announced on his fate, citing alleged persecution by Dr Mosisili and Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe (KC).

Ten days after his resignation – on 23 December 2016 – Dr Mosito was issued a letter from King Letsie III’s Senior Private Secretary, Manehela Phosholi, announcing his removal as Court of Appeal president.

Justice Mosito’s removal also appeared as Legal Notice No. 156 of 2016 in the government gazette Volume 61 of 23 December 2016 titled: “Removal of President of Court of Appeal Notice, 2016”.

Justice Mosito has since argued the government gazette and a letter from the royal palace secretariat declaring his removal from the helm of the apex court were “null and void” since they were issued after he had already resigned.

He said the move was possibly meant to humiliate him and taint his image. It was unclear, at the time of writing, when the case challenging Justice Mosito’s re-appointment would be heard.






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