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Opposition slams govt interference in the judiciary

’Marafaele Mohloboli

OPPOSITION parties have accused the Thomas Thabane-led coalition government of undermining the rule of law and bringing the judiciary into disrepute.

The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Democratic Congress (DC) recently addressed a press conference in Maseru where they accused the government of launching an onslaught against senior judicial officers like Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Leaba Thetsane.

Advocate Thetsane, who served as DPP since 1999, was initially scheduled to retire on 28 June 2018 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60 years.

However, the cabinet resolved that he retire with effect from 17 January this year and Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane was subsequently appointed acting DPP.

Adv Thetsane has since challenged that decision in the constitutional court. Heavily armed police officers raided Advocate Thetsane’s home in Thetsane in Maseru in February this year and forced him to hand over the official vehicle he used during his tenure as the DPP.

Justice Majara recently launched a court bid to prevent Dr Thabane from recommending her impeachment over a plethora of misconduct allegations.

The misconduct allegations include Justice Majara’s alleged failure to ensure the timeous delivery of justice as well as her controversial M27 000 per month housing deal which is way above the authorised limit of M4000.

DC Spokesperson Serialong Qoo accused Dr Thabane of interfering with the independence of the judiciary through his attempts to remove the chief justice.

“The Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) and the Commonwealth Magistrate and Judges Association (CMJA) condemned the attacks levelled against Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara by  the government when they called her names and said she was corrupt.

“They rebuked Prime Minister Thabane for meddling in the judiciary’s independence,” Mr Qoo said.

He further said that Adv Thetsane “was forced to retire and his car was taken away from him by a gang of heavily armed police officers, a case which is still pending before the courts of law”.

“PM Thabane attempted to have a judge (Justice Kananelo Mosito) who was impeached by a tribunal for tax evasion to be sworn in as the President of the Court of Appeal, a matter which fueled the fighting between the Chief Justice and PM.”

“Judge Robert Nugent was removed from the Court of Appeal, and Thabane tried to install another judge who had been charged and convicted of tax evasion,” Mr Qoo said, adding Dr Thabane had contravened the constitution by his actions.

He also slammed the government for pursuing corruption charges against the exiled LCD and former Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, despite former DPP Adv Thetsane stating that Mr Metsing had no case to answer.

He said this smacked of double standards as the government heeded the acting DPP Hlalefang Motinyane’s advice not to pursue corruption charges against the Ministry of Works principal secretary, Hlalefang Motinyane, in connection with the M140 million senate building tender.

“The former DPP Leaba Thetsane made it very clear that there was no case for the LCD leader to answer and this government held otherwise. Surprisingly the same government today agrees with Ms Motinyane that corruption charges should not be pursued against Hlalele,” Mr Qoo said.

He also accused the government of ignoring court orders to pay the full benefits of Mr Metsing and fellow opposition leader Mathibeli Mokhothu.

Mr Mokhothu is the deputy leader of the DC. Early this year, he won the right to remain the official leader of opposition in the National Assembly after having been stripped of the position by the Speaker of the National Assembly in November 2017.

“The courts have long ordered that former deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing be paid his benefits, but still the government is refusing to pay him. This is the same in the case of the leader of opposition Mathibeli Mokhothu whose benefits have not been paid although the courts ruled that they must be paid,” Mr Qoo said.

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