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Thakaso sues Lefa for defamation

Caswell Tlali

 MASERU — Controversial businessman Mohau Thakaso is suing the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) for M6 million for defamation of character.

Thakaso, a keen sports administrator, has also sued his team, Manonyane Football Club, together with its executive committee for M2 million saying it acted in concert with Lefa to defame him.

The first respondent is Salemane Phafane, the Lefa president and a senior counsel, whose rivalry with Thakaso traces as far back as 10 years ago.

The two have fought battles in football as well as business circles.

Twenty two other respondents include individual members of the executive committees of Lefa, Manonyane Football Club and the Maseru District Football Association.

In papers filed in the High Court on Friday last week, Thakaso’s lawyer Tekane Maqakachane says Lefa executive committee published a false statement saying Thakaso had formed a renegade organisation after he was suspended from Lefa for two years.

Thakaso was suspended from his position as a public relations officer at Lefa in 2000 after he publicly said the association’s executive committee was corrupt.

His major gripe with the Lefa executive committee was that it had condoned the decision to field over-aged players in international matches by using fraudulent birth certificates and multiple passports for each player. 

This did not go down well with the Lefa executive which charged him with bringing the game of football into disrepute and suspended him for two years.

After his suspension Thakaso led his Manonyane FC to join a group of disgruntled football clubs that formed the now defunct Sechaba Football Association under the leadership of the late lawyer Goitsemang Nthethe.

Towards the end of last year, Thakaso who was no longer participating in football returned to Manonyane FC. 

By this time the club had rejoined Lefa after the collapse of the Sechaba Football Association.

On his return Thakaso was elected president of the club but problems soon started.

Maqakachane says in January this year the Maseru District Football Association (Difa) defamed Thakaso when it told Manonyane FC that he had not served his two-year suspension.

Maseru Difa told the club that instead of serving his suspension Thakaso had formed a renegade association.

After that allegation Manonyane FC then issued a public statement disassociating itself from Thakaso saying he had not yet been “cleansed”.

The Manonyane FC committee is also said to have claimed that it had warned Thakaso and that it was facilitating “the cleansing of plaintiff from his suspension as per the reminder received from Maseru Difa.”

“The said statements,” says Maqakachane in court papers, “were not only false but were also defamatory of the plaintiff”.

“Each one of them infringed Plaintiff’s right to his good name and character and lowered him in his estimation in the eyes of reasonable men, and exposed him to ridicule, hatred and contempt,” says Maqakachane.

Thakaso’s lawyer says the statements “were published with bad intent and were calculated to defame Plaintiff and were thus published with the knowledge of their being so wrongful.” 

Maqakachane says the statements were calculated to be understood that “even after due process of law has been taken against Plaintiff by his employer to suspend him, Plaintiff will not follow proper procedures to raise his dissatisfaction against the employer’s decision”.

He also says the statements were made to mean that Thakaso “is a person who, even after clear reprimands and warnings, will defy the decision of any structure he is working for” and continues to do “exactly what he has been warned and reprimanded not to do.”

Maqakachane claims that the statement meant that Thakaso is “unclean and filthy and needs cleansing before he may join football ranks or any other employment structure” because of his disobedience and obstinacy.

“This view is even held by Maseru Difa who found it necessary to remind Manonyane Football Club of Plaintiff’s uncleanness and filth,” he says.

Maqakachane argues that Thakaso “served his suspension and never took part in the activities of the 10th Defendant (Lefa), nor took trips concerning and on behalf of (Lefa).”

The defendants are yet to respond to the suit.

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