Judge warns Thabane

Judge warns Thabane

MASERU-A HIGH court judge has warned Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government of the potential danger of treating Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli’s case lightly.
Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi issued the stern warning yesterday afternoon during a case in which Commissioner Molibeli is challenging Thabane’s decision to send him on early retirement over a battery of allegations.

Justice Monaphathi was left fuming after Thabane’s legal team failed to file their answering affidavit despite requesting an additional 48 hours to do so.
The judge seemed irritated when the government’s lawyers said they wanted an additional day to allow the Prime Minister to file his affidavit.
He said the case was supposed to have been argued on Monday afternoon but had to be postponed to yesterday to give the Prime Minister time to file his answering affidavits.
“This is a national issue which concerns stability and army men, but the way the Attorney General and his office have taken it for granted it’s as if it’s just a case,” Justice Monaphathi said.
“I won’t take it lightly that the Government did not file their answering affidavit, they have more power than every institution in this country.”

He said everyone could see that this is a “highly sensitive and dangerous matter”.
“We have so many blind people in this country who may not see the sensitiveness of this case.”
The judge said it is unacceptable that the government’s team was now claiming that it did not have time to file the affidavit when it had access to every court document relating to the matter.
He said he was disappointed by the Attorney General’s office.

“I am more concerned about the way the Attorney General and officers work. This is a dangerous case and the court does not want to be seen as compromised, we want the matter complete.”
“What the court requires is to see this case proceeding. It is not our business to know why Molibeli was suspended but he came here for justice so we have to offer it at its best.”
The case, the judged added, has not only affected the commissioner but also his family that wants it to be resolved quickly.
“It might happen that the Prime Minister suspended him correctly due to his actions but that does not concern us, all what matters is he ran to the court seeking justice.”

He said the government’s pleas to postpone the matter were inflicting more pain on Commissioner Molibeli.
“I suspect everyone who is expelled from his office feels pain and what Molibeli did is correct to run to the courts as he gave a good example to others that being suspended without reason is not a good thing,” he said.

“It is not fair to the court that today when we are supposed to continue then you say you have not filed the replying affidavit because you had no time.”
Justice Monaphathi postponed the case to this afternoon (Thursday).
Commissioner Molibeli was first sent on a 60-day forced leave on January 2 and he responded by filing an urgent application blocking the move. On January 3 the High Court granted an interim order allowing him to remain in office until January 6.

Then on January 5 he discovered another letter informing him that Thabane was considering advising the King to “require” him to retire over charges of misconduct.
“It should be an obvious thing that your conduct in question has grave potential to have a negative bearing on the performance of your duties and discharge of responsibilities as the overall operational commander of the Lesotho Police Service,” said the letter.

The letter gave him seven days to give reasons why the Prime Minister could not advise the King to retire him.
It said the commissioner was being suspended for 60 days pending an investigation into his fitness to hold office. The suspension was with immediate effect and restricted him from “interfering with the entire police service”.

In his urgent application Commissioner Molibeli argues that the Prime Minister does not have the authority or power to suspend him.
That authority and power, he says, lies with the King as the appointing authority.
He alleges that Prime Minister acted “without legal authority, abused his power, and in a naked show of disrespect to the rule of law and due process…”
He further argues that Thabane acted to undermine not only the independence of the LMPS but also the Police Authority.

Itumeleng Khoete

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