I am not going  anywhere: Molise

I am not going anywhere: Molise

MASERU-AFTER spending 12 years in jail for murder and kidnapping Phakiso Molise thought he had paid his dues. So, in 2018 he applied to be a director of the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA). He got the job and for the next two years his appointment did not raise eyebrows. There were, of course, some grumblings about an ex-convict being a director but he says it was not something he could not handle.

But recent events have shone harsh light on the board and his appointment has become a hot subject again. After the LCA fined Vodacom and revoked its licence some are questioning Molise’s presence on its board. The Communications Act says the minister cannot appoint a convicted person on the LCA board.

The Companies Act says the same about the appointment of a company director. Molise however says he is going nowhere and anyone unhappy about his appointment should approach the courts. This week thepost spoke to him about his position and the controversy surrounding it. Below are excerpts from the interview.

The Communications Act says anyone who has been convicted cannot be appointed to the LCA board. Your appointment is thus in violation of that law.
To be honest, I don’t really interpret it that way. I have several reasons to explain why I think that is not what the law means. If the Act wanted to talk about previous criminal record or conviction then it would have said so clearly.

My thinking is that it was meant to protect the institution by stopping the appointing authority from appointing a person still under conviction. Being a board member is not even a permanent appointment. It’s one in which someone attends meetings from time to time. This means that if they were to appoint someone still under conviction then the LCA operations will be hampered.

But that is not what the Communications Act says. It is precise that the minister cannot appoint someone who has been convicted. You have been convicted but you are on the board.

People can interpret it the way they want but once there are several interpretations to a law it means there is ambiguity. But even if we look at it from that interpretation it means that law is against the constitution whose section 18 says there shall be no discrimination. This means the law fits squarely within the acts of discrimination and is therefore unconstitutional. We can also look at section 20 of the constitution which says everyone has a right to participate in government. My point is if the law was meant to prohibit people like me from sitting on the board then it is unconstitutional.

It’s not only the Communications Act which prohibits the appointment of convicts to the boards. The Companies Act says the same.
The constitution is very clear that any law that conflicts with it is null and void. So it will be funny if any person would choose a subordinate law over the constitution. Anyone aggrieved by my appointment can go to court. The advert did not have any limitations. Probably if this was the intention then they could have been some kind of guidance because the law, even the International Labour Organisation (ILO) regulation, stipulates the guidelines so that the person cannot be discriminated against.

Those laws are not discriminating against convicts. They are merely saying you cannot be a director of any company or the LCA if you have been convicted. You can still work anywhere but not as a director of LCA or a company. It’s a restriction not discrimination.

Even if we can say so, then it will remain unconstitutional because the discrimination is not confined to certain jobs. The ILO has some guidelines so that wherever the criminal record may be considered to potentially harm the operations of a company, then the person who has a record but wants to be hired is given a chance to explain what happened. In Lesotho, we don’t have the authority that categorises people as on the basis of a criminal record. It is the court of law that declares that a person has a criminal record. It’s not anyone who can say that. It’s a legal matter which only the courts of law should handle. I would think that the Attorney General can be approached to take the matter to court to decide if someone who has been convicted can be employed. There must be a procedure.

What procedure do you want to be followed when the law is clear that a convicted person cannot be on the LCA board?
Procedure has to be followed even if something looks clear. In this clear it’s something that has to be determined by the court. A person in the streets may not know what happened in the case. For example, what if the King has pardoned? The person on the streets will not know. It has to be a judicial decision.

The judicial decision is that you have been convicted. The law says you cannot be on the LCA board. What more clarity do you want?
The court will assess if my conviction bars me from being appointed. I have said I have appealed against even the so-called cases I faced. It’s 20 years now since I appealed. My case was complex. I was arrested in South Africa and brought back to Lesotho without following the extradition process. So the courts of law had no jurisdiction over me. I argued that point but that element of appeal has not been heard. I believe if heard it will quash all the convictions.

You appealed against the murder convictions and lost. Your conviction was confirmed by the highest court in the land.
Those judges were called to the State Council and had a braai before hearing the case. They even took time before passing judgement, claiming that they were owed by the government. That showed the judiciary was captured.

Are you saying you were not fairly prosecuted or that the Communications Act is wrong?
If the act means previous conviction then it’s wrong. Yes, I remain unfairly prosecuted. I haven’t been heard by the Court of Appeal on the point of jurisdiction of the court. My appearance was illegal and the day I am heard it will automatically reverse all decisions against me. It’s something I have been pushing ever since I came back to the country and continue doing so even today when you called me. The cases were just a ploy to get to me. I am just outlining some cases but there were so many attempts on my life.

These are things I don’t want to discuss. I want to stick to these issues that were in the public. I am approaching them as legitimate but people knew that this was persecution. I am saying I don’t understand the Communications Act to mean that I am prohibited to be on the board based on my conviction. Secondly, if they interpret it that way then it’s unconstitutional. Third, even the so-called cases were just trumped up charges to get to me. So there are just multiple injustices against me.

They frame charges, use corruption to convict and then chase me wherever I get to sit even on a board. This means there is someone who doesn’t want to see me live. There are people in the previous government and current one who have been allowed to work on state issues despite their conviction. It cannot be fair that only Molise is barred from earning a living.

Staff Reporter

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