…LPC spokesperson denied bail by the magistrate’s court
THE Maseru Magistrate’s Court on Friday shot down a bail application by the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) spokesperson, Bokang Ramatšella, who is facing sedition charges.
Mr Ramatšella first appeared before the court on Thursday charged with making subversive statements on a local radio station, Thaha-Khube (TK) FM. Mr Ramatšella had been arrested two days before and kept in police custody until his court appearance. Magistrate Masupha Kao said Mr Ramatšella should apply for bail at the High Court due to the nature of the alleged offense.
According to the charge sheet, Mr Ramatšella, “on 20 August 2014 allegedly made seditious statements while on air at Thaha-Khube (TK) FM, by uttering the following statement: The people who represented Lesotho at the (2014) SADC (Southern African Development Community heads of state and government ) summit are insane”.
Mr Ramatšella, the charge sheet further notes, “contravened Section 76, Sub-Section Two (b) read with (d), of the Penal Code Act No. 6 of 2010,” by making the statement.
However, following heated arguments between Mr Ramatšella’s lawyer, Salemane Phafane (King’s Counsel) and prosecutor Lehlohonolo Phooko, Magistrate Kao on Thursday adjourned the court session pending his ruling the following day.
In the court — fully packed with Mr Ramatšella’s supporters clad in Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and LPC regalia — Advocate Phafane argued the offence his client was being accused of was not subversive at all.
The state, Advocate Phafane stressed, was “desperate” to see Mr Ramatšella denied bail, “hence the reason why the prosecution chose to charge my client with sedition”.
“The state did so knowingly that the crime of sedition, and the same goes with murder and treason, is not bailable before the magistrate’s court,” he said.
Advocate Phafane went on to argue if the prosecution was certain Mr Ramatšella committed a seditious offense, “they should have picked Section 76, Subsection One, which directly prescribes how the crime of sedition is committed.”
He added: “But they avoided that section due to their uncertainty and chose a wrong subsection which only relates to a statutory offence, not sedition. Mere words that ‘people who represented Lesotho in the SADC meeting are insane,’ that are alleged to have been uttered by my client, are not seditious. It is a democratic right for any citizen to tell his or her leader that ‘I voted you into power, but you are now insane.’ That is not sedition.”
Advocate Phafane further warned the court to refrain from being “a rubber-stamp” of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“With respect your worship, I submit that this honourable court should not allow its reputation to be brought into disrepute by acting as a rubber-stamp of the DPP. “What I mean is that this court should make its own assessment carefully, whether it is correct for my client to be charged with sedition while there are no facts to prove it,” he said.
Advocate Phafane further told the court it was its decision in a similar matter in March this year that Matlosa (DC), Masiphole (DC) and Mpobole (BCP) were wrongfully charged with sedition, “and this court ruled they should be admitted on bail”.
“That is why this court is bound to grant Mr Ramatšella bail because it is a decision of this very court already made,” said Advocate Phafane.
But Mr Phooko rose to dismiss Advocate Phafane’s submission, saying: “When looking at the dictionary meaning of sedition, it is only correct to say the accused before court allegedly disrespected, defied and subverted the authority of the government of Lesotho. And that is sedition.”
When passing the ruling, Magistrate Kao dismissed Advocate Phafane’s arguments, maintaining the court, based on the charge Mr Ramatšella faced, had no jurisdiction to grant him the bail.
“This court is not a rubber-stamp to the DPP like Mr Phafane suggests,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Advocate Phafane told the Sunday Express shortly after the court session that he was ready to file an urgent application for bail in the High Court for the release of his client.