Soldiers to  foot own bills

Soldiers to foot own bills

MASERU – THE High Court on Tuesday overturned a decision by its Registrar to pay legal bills for soldiers who have been in detention since 2017.
High Court Registrar, Pontšo Phafoli, said the government would pay M400 per day in legal fees for the soldiers, a decision that incensed the Attorney General Haae Phoofolo.
Phoofolo immediately challenged the decision last week arguing the Registrar had acted unprofessionally when she agreed to the soldiers’ request.

Delivering judgment on Tuesday, High Court judge, Justice Charles Hungwe, said the soldiers can still afford to pay their fees since they are still on the government payroll.
Justice Hungwe said the case must proceed even if the soldiers decide to apply for financial assistance.
Advocate Mohaneng Rasekoai, on behalf of the prosecution, said the soldiers do not deserve any assistance from the state because they were still earning their monthly salaries.

He said the Registrar had erred when she made that decision because she had not considered all facts about the matter.
Advocate Rasekoai said the soldiers never disclosed to the Registrar that they were still earning their salaries.
He further argued that there was no affidavit from the Registrar explaining why she reached such a decision.
“It was not a well informed decision, she cannot assist people who are capable of paying their fees,” he said.

Advocate Christopher Lephuthing, who also appeared for the crown, said the soldiers have enough money to pay for their legal fees.
He told the court that the soldiers earn a salary of not less than M8 000 per month.
And this proves that they could afford to pay their legal fees.
Lephuthing said almost all of the soldiers had sought to be represented by experienced lawyers which was an indication that they could afford to pay their fees.

However, Advocate Napo Mafaesa who was appearing on behalf of some of the soldiers told the court that their clients were facing serious charges and the cases would be very expensive.
Even the state was relying on help from other organisations for help, he said.
The European Union is sponsoring the foreign judges who are presiding over the cases.

“What more of an ordinary accused person? They deserve assistance in order to defend themselves,” Advocate Mafaesa said.
He urged the Registrar to be given a second chance to look into each and every circumstance of the accused soldiers and make a decision.
“The Registrar did not make a mistake to award the accused persons fees, we request she be given a chance to review her decision and we believe she would still do the same decision,” he said.
Advocate Mafaesa said the Attorney General did not have the right to bring the application before the court because of the principle of separation of powers.

“He cannot be seen coming to court and giving directives of how things should have been done,” he said.
He said the allocation of funds was the executive decision of the Registrar.
Advocate Mafaesa argued that the Attorney General should not have any business directing the Registrar how to perform her work.
“It was not necessary for him to do so,” he said.
The Registrar cannot be questioned by an outsider as to why she was assisting an accused person with legal fees.

Advocate Mafaesa said the Registrar would not be able to file an affidavit explaining her decision because the person who was to defend her was the one who was suing her.
“He is her legal principal adviser, so how could she have filed the affidavit as the person who advises her accuses her and is against her?”
‘‘He does not have the right to review the decision,’’ he said.
Attorney Qhalehang Letsika said the soldiers have a right to trials and they are faced with serious trials in which the government itself brought foreigners to preside and prosecute them.

Advocate Rasekoai said the Attorney General acted in line with the Constitution where it states that his “function is to take necessary legal measures for the protection and upholding of the constitution and the other laws of Lesotho”.
He said the Attorney General is mandated “to exercise and perform any of the rights, prerogatives, privileges or functions of the state before courts or tribunals and to perform such other duties and exercise such other powers as may be conferred on him by the constitution or any other law.”

Itumeleng Khoete


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