Prominent human rights lawyer, King’s Counsel (KC) Haae Phoofolo, is suing Brigadier Ramanka Mokaloba for M450 000 for statements the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officer allegedly uttered during the SADC Commission of Inquiry last year.
Advocate Phoofolo opened a civil case against Brigadier Mokaloba on 21 January 2016 in the High Court and the Sunday Express understands the officer was served with summons on Friday.
In October last year, Advocate Phoofolo wrote a letter to Brigadier Mokaloba demanding the M450 000 for “impairment” of his dignity, but says the communication was ignored despite coming with a one-week ultimatum.
Advocate Phoofolo says after this development, he was left with no choice but to take the matter to court.
The former Human Rights, Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister is also demanding interest on the M450 000 at the rate of 18.5 percent, as well as costs of the suit in the event of opposition.
Advocate Phoofolo has given the brigadier 14 days to respond to the litigation should he dispute liability.
Advocate Phoofolo says he was representing the family of slain former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, in the SADC Inquiry and cross-examining Brigadier Mokaloba on 12 October 2015 when the officer allegedly launched a “venomous, personal attack” against him.
The words uttered in the attack were completely unrelated to the issues before the commission, he notes in the court papers.
SADC set-up the inquiry on 3 July 2015 to establish the circumstances surrounding the army’s fatal shooting of Lt-Gen Mahao outside his Mokema farm on 25 June 2015. The army and government claim Lt-Gen Mahao was resisting arrest for suspected mutiny when he was gunned down, which his family has rejected out of hand.
Brigadier Mokaloba was one of several people interviewed by the commission between 31 August and 23 October 2015 in Maseru and Thaba-Nchu, South Africa.
Advocate Phoofolo notes in his lawsuit against Brigadier Mokaloba: “While under cross-examination, the defendant (Brigadier Mokaloba ) launched a venomous, personal attack against the plaintiff by uttering words which were completely unrelated to the issues placed before the commission or amounting to an answer to the question posed, to the following effect: ‘you are a mature and experienced person …I know you were once imprisoned over monies of the Central Bank.’”
He adds despite raising his concerns with the chairperson of the commission, Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi, “the defendant repeated his vengeful, malicious and unlawful attack.
“…the defendant yet again echoed the following words: ‘My Lord! I will try by all means and I ask of you to bear with me…the reason is because when he himself is asking me all these questions, he himself comes from jail on suspicion of siphoning the monies of Basotho and I will not even go there; I will strive to be very brief…”
The lawyer says the words were “nothing but a brazen attack and/or unfounded aggression” on his dignity.
The “net effect” of the remarks, he adds in his court papers, was to subject him to “ill-will, ridicule, disesteem or contempt in a forum that aroused wide public interest” as the proceedings were being broadcast live by radio and television, and also being published by newspapers.
“…as a result, the said wrongful and unlawful acts of the defendant amount to widescale and groundbreaking humiliation of the plaintiff,” the papers further read.
According to the papers, Brigadier Mokaloba “by both his words and or conduct, made false representation in the said platform to the effect that the plaintiff was convicted for syphoning public funds.
“The defendant knew that the said pronouncement and representation were false and ill-taken…and the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the said representation because his public profile, both as a politician and legal practitioner with a conferment of silk by the Head of State, was largely compromised in the eyes of the public.
“The intended aim of the defendant was to cause the plaintiff grave humiliation and indignity and it was premised on an injurious falsehood to the effect that he had syphoned the public funds. As a result of the said wrongful and unlawful acts of the defendant, the plaintiff suffered considerable harm of his dignity which was adversely impinged upon.”
Advocate Phoofolo further says Brigadier Mokaloba cannot use “privilege” as defence against the suit.
“It is specifically pleaded that proceedings in the commission cannot form the subject-matter of privileged proceedings within the context of Section 5 (3) of the Public Inquiries Act No.1 of 1994,” the lawyer notes.
“It is further specifically pleaded that even assuming without necessarily conceding that to be the case, the nature of the statements and or remarks fall within the category of exceptions to the general rule of privilege which attracts immunity from litigation in view of its malicious and vengeful nature.”
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