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Soldier files M1 million defamation suit

Tefo Tefo

MASERU – A Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) captain who is challenging a government pension scheme is demanding M1 million in defamation charges from a top soldier Colonel Tau Ntšohi.

Captain Bulane Sechele’s lawyers on Wednesday served Ntšohi with a letter demanding payment of M1 million within a month as compensation for allegedly telling a military parade on April 6 last year that Sechele was mutinous.

Sechele said the statements, made at a morning parade at the Lesotho Defence Force air wing in Maseru, also endangered his life because mutiny was the most serious offence in the army as it made one an enemy of the state.

Colonel Ntšohi is alleged to have said: “I have heard that one Captain Bulane Sechele is going around telling people that the Contributory Pension Scheme is unconstitutional. That act of his is mutiny and that captain is committing mutiny.”

Advocate Patrick Tšenoli, representing Sechele, said in the letter of demand that Ntšohi’s utterances were false, defamatory and meant to portray Sechele as a mutineer and a criminal.

“On the contrary, my client has instituted a constitutional case number 6 of 2010 in the courts of Lesotho challenging the constitutionality of the Contributory Pension Scheme in his own capacity and he is well within his rights.

“He did not invite anybody in that discourse. That is not mutiny,” Tšenoli said.

Tšenoli said Ntšohi could pay for the claim individually or share the burden with the army commander Thuso Motanyane and the Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe because the utterances were made when Ntšohi was executing his official duties.

Sechele last year raised concerns to army authorities about the contributory pension scheme for public officers.

A holder of a Masters degree in Public International Law, Sechele argued that the scheme contradicted the law because the constitution already provided for a consolidated fund from which public officers’ pensions were obtained.

He subsequently lodged a case before the Constitutional Court which he lost.

Sechele has appealed against the Constitutional Court decision and the Court of Appeal will hear the case on April 5.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili convened a court martial in his capacity as defence minister in October last year to prosecute Sechele for lodging the constitutional case without seeking permission from Motanyane.

Military authorities accuse Sechele of breaching the army’s code of conduct by approaching civillian courts without the approval from the army commander.

But Sechele has since lodged another case challenging the constitutionality of the Lesotho Defence Force Act of 1996 used by Mosisili to court martial him.

He argues that the Act does not clearly define the meaning of breach of conduct for army officers.

The case will be heard in the High Court in June.

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