PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has appointed a former lawyer, Advocate Rapelang Motsieloa, as the new attorney general.
In a statement yesterday, Dr Majoro’s press attaché, Buta Moseme, said Adv Motsieloa’s appointment is with effect from 10 June 2021.
“The public is hereby notified that pursuant to Section 140 (1) of Lesotho’s constitution, His Majesty King Letsie III has accepted the advice of the Right Honourable Prime Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, to appoint Advocate Rapelang Motsieloa, as the new attorney general,” Mr Moseme said.
“Adv Motsieloa is a Lesotho national with a vast experience in the legal fraternity. He is also an admitted advocate of both the magistrates’ and High Court. His academic background includes Bachelor of Laws and BA of Arts in Law from the National University of Lesotho. The office of the AG serves as a legal advisor of the state and in that capacity, it is envisaged to provide professional and genuine advice without fear or favour to all arms of the state,” Mr Moseme adds.
Adv Motsieloa is an experienced lawyer. Among other high-profile clients, he has represented then Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) when they were sued on different occasions for unlawful arrest and detention of civilians.
His appointment comes four months after the expiry of the contract of former AG, Advocate Haae Phoofolo King’s Counsel.
Although his contract was due to expire in February this year, Adv Phoofolo had to file a High Court application to stop Dr Majoro from prematurely pushing him out of office last September.
Dr Majoro had effectively fired Adv Phoofolo on 14 September 2020 when he wrote to him, sending him on terminal leave with immediate effect. The premier said it was necessary for Adv Phoofolo to go on leave to facilitate the search for his successor ahead of the expiry of his contract in February 2021.
But government sources insisted that the real reason for Adv Phoofolo’s ouster was the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) national executive committee (NEC)’s decision to have him fired and replaced by a younger person.
The NEC felt Adv Phoofolo was now too old and “incompetent”. There was also anger over his role in the appointment of five new judges.
Adv Phoofolo had met with then Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase on 20 August 2020 in their capacity as members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and recommended the appointment of five new judges namely Adv Putsoane, lawyers Tšabo Matooane, Mokhele Matsau, Moneuoa Kopo and ‘Maliepollo Makhetha.
Adv Phoofolo and Justice Mahase were accused of making the recommendations without informing then Law and Justice Minister Nqosa Mahao. At the time, Professor Mahao was also the deputy leader of the ABC and he was effectively in control of the party’s NEC which wanted Adv Phoofolo and Justice Mahase out.
ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele subsequently confirmed to the Lesotho Times that the party’s NEC had indeed recommended the ouster of Adv Phoofolo and Justice Mahase.
Mr Hlaele said the NEC’s recommendation for their ouster was purely on the grounds of “competency issues” and nothing else.
However, Adv Phoofolo was able to see out the remainder of his contract in office.
This after High Court Judge Molefi Makara last November nullified Dr Majoro’s decision to send him on forced leave pending the expiry of his contract.
Justice Molefi Makara also set aside Dr Majoro’s decision to appoint Deputy Attorney General Adv Tšebang Putsoane as the Acting Attorney General.
Meanwhile, the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has criticised the appointment of Adv Motsieloa. LCD spokesperson Apesi Ratšele reiterated his party ‘s long-held stance that all appointments to key government institutions such as the AG, the army, police and the judiciary should be deferred until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms recommended by SADC in 2016.
Any appointments made before then would not be transparent and would only reward political allies instead of the most deserving candidates, the LCD says.
“We have long urged the government not to make substantive appointments to all the statutory positions because we feel there can only be transparent appointments once the reforms process has been concluded.
“Right now, we are only getting political appointees and these can’t be expected to perform well. Even (former Minister of Justice and Law Nqosa) Mahao once said he would not fill the post of chief justice position until after the reforms. He later somersaulted and appointed Ntate Sakoane Sakoane as the substantive chief justice ahead of more senior judges.
“In the same manner, we strongly believe the likes of Ntate Mating Nkakala was parachuted over more senior officers to become the substantive Commissioner of the Lesotho Correctional Service.
“It is the same with the new Attorney General Ntate Motsieloa. We believe that there are other people in that office who are better suited for the job had the appointment been on merits and not political. To us, it says all those who have been appointed are loyal to Ntate Majoro. It is all political and nothing else,” Mr Ratšele told this publication.
Prior to joining the government last May, Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC) had also echoed similar sentiments on the need to defer major appointments until after the reforms.
DC secretary general Tšitso Cheba yesterday said he was unable to comment on the issue because he was busy with party commitments.