Master of High Court lashes at PAC

Master of High Court lashes at PAC

MASERU – THE Master of the High Court ’Matahleho Matiea says Parliament has no authority to review her decisions.
She says she will therefore not set her foot in the House to answer any queries by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after she was harassed by the committee last month.

Matiea and her former junior, Hlahlobo Moruri, who is now head of the legal department in the Ministry of Finance, together with an executor in an estate dispute, Attorney Moroesi Tau-Thabane, have asked for protection from the High Court.
They jointly ask the court to interdict the Speaker of Parliament Sephiri Motanyane, the Clerk of Parliament Fine Maema and the PAC from summoning them to appear before the committee.

They also ask the court to order Parliament to furnish them with the records of the PAC proceedings of April 16 and 17 in which the Master and her staff were harassed and ridiculed. They say the evidence Matiea and Moruri gave before the PAC during those proceedings should be set aside for being illegal, unlawful and irregular.

In her affidavit, Matiea told the court that the PAC summoned her to testify and was not given enough time to prepare for the hearing. She says she was only given just 12 hours to do so. Matiea said the PAC chairman, Selibe Mochoboroane, told her that there were some complainants and he had to help them and “these people referred to were not known to me at the material time and neither did I know the scope of the issues at play”.
She found that the complainant was Mpho Mapetla whose father’s pension proceeds only came for distribution between her father’s second wife and other family members at a time when Moruri was still the Assistant Master.

“I had not received any complaint from the said Mpho until (Moruri) had transferred to (Finance) Ministry,” Matiea says.
Matiea says she was interrogated without forewarning by PAC members over Mpho’s complaint and the questioning was “degrading and even went further to try and show that I had lost control over the office”.

“In some of the cases I was put in a compromised position having to disclose privileged information between attorney and client specifically my office and that of the (Attorney General,” she says. Matiea was ordered to appear again on the following day and she says she did not know the agenda except Mpho’s complaint, which they had just discussed.

On the following day, after 4.30pm Mochoboroane ushered in a group of complainants who were given an opportunity to table their complaints “which I had to respond to there and then without any preparation and or referencing in spite of a litany of isolated cases that my office deals with”.
Some of the cases that the PAC discussed were still in court, she says.

Mochoboroane ordered Matiea to pay the complainants and report back to him within 21 days.
“Among the people who complained others lied and said I even insulted them and this was believed by (the PAC) and a great deal of weight was attached to my professional integrity,” she says.

“I was criticised extensively that I serve members of the public badly while being unfairly criticised without being allowed to give one’s side of the story. There were also threats of intimidation that the handcuffs be ready,” she says.
Matiea says she was repeatedly threatened that she would provide a list of those cases which are all deceased estates under administration of her office.

“This was notwithstanding the fact some of the cases complained of were still pending before courts of law,” she says.
She says the PAC “was the judge, the complainants’ representative and the prosecutor at the same time for all the cases”.
“I suffered gross humiliation at the hands of (the PAC) and this event was televised and viewed by the national broadcaster – Lesotho Television.”
She says her office was put into disrepute and some clients are very hostile to her as a result of the skewed proceedings to which she and her staff were subjected.

She says a day after the proceedings she was sitting in her office when a young man who had been sitting next to Mpho Mapetla earlier stormed in and “started staging verbal assaults at me”.

She says she went to the police to report and while she was still waiting for a statement to be obtained “several police officers came one by one to look themselves in the mirror which was on the wall, just to ensure that they see me at a closer range”.

She says some officers came and mockingly asked if she was “the notorious Mrs Matima” and laughed at her.

“I received phone calls from within and outside the country, some sympathising while others endeavoured to ridicule me in the meanest possible manner,” she says.

She says she was insulted on Facebook and labelled a thief after it was said she had hidden the testamentary will of Mpho Mapetla’s father.

She says radio stations’ phone-in programmes had commentators who had already found her guilty.

Newspapers said she had pocketed M200 000 belonging to Mpho Mapetla’s father, she says.

Moruri tells the court in his affidavit that some of the questions that were put to him bore criminal underpinnings to which he was supposed to be exercising his common law right to silence.

Moruri, just like Matiea, says he was not given prior notice when he was called before the PAC and he had not prepared any defence.

“I was consistently being interrupted by the members of the (PAC), who were denying me the opportunity to explain certain things,” Moruri says.

“Most of the things they were saying suggested that they had already found me guilty of the complaints levelled against me,” he says.

“I aver that the committee was bias(ed) against me.”

Mpho Mapetla accused Moruri of fraudulently stealing monies that were supposed to be paid to her when he was still the Assistant Master.

Both Matiea, Moruri and Attorney Tau-Thabane argue that parliament does not have legal powers to call the Master or to review her decisions.

They argue that any complainant who is unsatisfied with her decisions may go to the High Court.

Majara Molupe

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