Metsing,  Mochoboroane fight treason charge

Metsing, Mochoboroane fight treason charge

MASERU – TWO Lesotho opposition leaders, who were last week charged with treason, have now filed a Constitutional Court case seeking to quash the charges.

Mothetjoa Metsing, who leads the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, were due to stand trial on Tuesday.
The two argue the charges are politically motivated.

Metsing and Mochoboroane have been charged together with former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
The state says the trio committed treason in August 2014 when the army under Lt Gen Kamoli raided the police headquarters in Maseru and other police stations in what the government said was an attempted coup.
At the time of the disturbances, Metsing was the deputy prime minister while Mochoboroane was Communications Minister.

Mochoboroane had refused to vacate office after the then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fired him.
A senior police officer, Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko was killed during the raid.

The state alleges Metsing and Mochoboroane connived with Lt Gen Kamoli, who is currently languishing in jail awaiting trial, to topple the government.
In an urgent application filed in the Constitutional Court on Monday, Metsing and Mochoboroane asked to be granted leave to intervene as respondents in a case that is closely linked to the August 2014 events.
The case involves the families of Ramahloko and Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao in which they challenged a SADC-driven decision to suspend Metsing’s murder charge.

The government’s decision to suspend Metsing’s charges was based on “clause 10” of a memorandum of agreement that granted immunity to political leaders until after the SADC reforms.
It was only after that deal was signed that Metsing was able to return to Lesotho from exile in South Africa.

The state counsel Advocate Shaun Abrahams said Metsing and Mochoboroane cannot appear before the criminal court pending the constitutional case in the High Court.
“They requested not to appear before court pending the finalisation of their case,” Advocate Abrahams said.

In an affidavit, Mochoboroane says he is surprised that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is pursuing the case against them yet there was Clause 10 of the Memorandum Agreement which provided immunity until after the reforms.

“The political concern was that there was a danger that prosecution of criminal cases could be abused and used as a weapon to harass political opponents,” Mochoboroane said.
“There were concerns that on several occasions those in government appeared to use the police and prosecution authorities to pursue their political opponents and to run a smear campaign against them so that they could lose the support of the citizens,” he said.

“The political consensus was that no one is above the law, and that prosecution should give way to the paramount exercise of constitutional reforms, and that (prosecution) would be suspended temporarily,” he said.
He said the notice of trial and indictment violates the political agreement by the executive branch of government and the opposition politicians.

“This constitutes an abuse of court process and this looks suspiciously political.
“We were never informed by the government that it has now changed its attitudes and wanted to press ahead with prosecutions of those involved in the National Reforms process,” he says.

“We are prepared to face prosecution for whatever offences are alleged against us. We are not making this application to avoid prosecution . . . We however have a right to expect Constitutional behaviour on the part of the functionaries of the government.”
“The government cannot make undertakings and break them willy-nilly,” he said.

Metsing said the accusations levelled against them were all politically motivated.
“The PM (Thabane) has actually communicated his intentions to the nation that he is going to resign at the end of July,” Metsing said in his founding affidavit.

“The vacancy that is likely to be created could be filled by any politician in the National Assembly and we have a major role to play in the selection of (a) new Prime Minister and the fact that we are now dragged into court at this crucial time looks suspicious,” he said.

“It looks as though it is influenced by political considerations to achieve a desirable political landscape for some politicians.”
Metsing argues that the case has been pending since the beginning of 2018 when it was registered and it was Lt Gen Kamoli and others who were charged.

“There is no conceivable reason why the DPP had decided to drag us before the court now and ignore the Clause 10 of the Memorandum of Understanding,” Metsing said.
“What we know with Mochoboroane is that the country is in a volatile political phase, the Prime Minister and his party are at loggerheads and some of them require him to resign,” he said.

Staff Reporter

 

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