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Police chief faces contempt charge

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Police Commissioner Kizito Mhlakaza is expected to appear before High Court judge Justice ’Maseforo Mahase on Wednesday to show cause why he should not be jailed for contempt of court. The judge wants the commissioner to explain why he should not be sent to prison for allegedly ignoring her court order to release Eyob Asemie, a Mosotho of Ethiopian origin who was fighting for Lesotho citizenship. Justice Mahase issued the court order last month after Asemie had been arrested and detained without being charged.

Mhlakaza allegedly ordered his officers to keep Asemie in custody “until he otherwise directed” despite the court order. When Mhlakaza failed to release Asemie Justice Mahase ordered his arrest by the military police saying junior cops would not arrest him out of fear or respect. This order was also not carried out. Asemie, who had been arrested on a Sunday, was kept at the police headquarters until Tuesday when he allegedly absconded while his lawyers were filing an application for the arrest of the commissioner at the High Court. Asemie in his founding affidavit says the order for his release was received by a police lawyer, one Advocate Ntsane, who immediately informed Mhlakaza but the commissioner “in my presence and where I was hearing the communication directed and ordered Advocate Ntsane not to release me until further notice”.

From there, Asemie says, Mhlakaza ignored calls from the officers and from his lawyer Tekane Maqakachane. Maqakachane left the police station after unsuccessful calls to Mhlakaza and went to the High Court, at 2am, to seek an order for the commissioner’s arrest. Two weeks ago Advocate Rapelang Motsieloa, who is representing Mhlakaza, said the commissioner could not obey the court order because by the time it was issued Asemie had already escaped from custody. He said Asemie had escaped even before his application could be argued. This was Motsieloa’s only reference to Mhlakaza’s contempt of court charge in his 10-page heads of argument.

Asemie’s lawyer Maqakachane on the other hand argued that Mhlakaza had elected not to answer the contempt application. “No iota of evidence has been brought forward by the Respondents to controvert the case of contempt,” said Maqakachane in his papers. “Thus the Applicant’s case has not been challenged. “Wherefore we pray that the orders sought under the contempt application be confirmed as prayed.” Maqakachane insisted that Mhlakaza should be jailed for contempt of court.

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