Reforms deal challenged

Reforms deal challenged

MASERU – THE reforms deal signed between government and the opposition last week has run into a legal hurdle, thepost can reveal.
This, after a Mafeteng businessman filed a case in the Constitutional Court to challenge the legality of a section of the agreement.
What has angered Tebelo Moferefere Senatla is clause 10 of the agreement which says Lesotho Congress for Democracy leader (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing and “other similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reform process”.
In his affidavit, Senatla argues that this clause is unconstitutional as it temporarily stops prosecutions.

He argues that the clause amounts to a selective application of the law as it seeks to give special treatment to Metsing and other people in exile.
Senatla says there is no justifiable reason why Metsing and others in exile should be granted preferential treatment in the name of the reforms.
The genesis of Senatla’s lawsuit is however not political but business. He is only challenging the clause because the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has told him that he is about to be charged for money laundering and fraud.

In September his house was raided by DCEO officials who had a search warrant from a magistrate.
The officers seized documents and cars. They also froze the bank accounts of his six businesses.
Senatla claims that the officers told him that he was accused of working with his employer, Sentebale Gap Funeral, to launder money.
His offices at the funeral company, where he works as a clerk, were also searched. Senatla says he believes that the warrant was unconstitutional because its scope is too broad and does not specify what crime is being investigated.

He also says he has reason to doubt the veracity of the warrant because a court official has told him that they have no such document in their records.
Senatla therefore wants the court to declare the warrant unlawful and order the DCEO to return the property it seized.
It is however his attack on the reforms agreement that could trigger anxiety in government and among the political players. He says although he has no qualms with having his day in court he finds it unfair that he could be prosecuted while politicians are granted temporary relief through the agreement between the government and the opposition.
He says his only gripe with the agreement is clause 10.

Senatla argues that the DCEO has already announced that it has completed its investigation on Metsing and is ready to charge him. He argues that he and Metsing are in the same position because they are both about to be charged.
“Though I am in similar situation as Mr Metsing, the said clause discriminatorily grants him temporary reprieve against prosecution pending National Dialogue and National Reforms Process,” Senatla says.

“Mr Metsing is being granted this preferential treatment on the basis of flimsy excuse that being a leader of a political party in Lesotho, his prosecution might negatively affect the participation in the reform process. I submit that that is not a reason enough for infringing my fundamental freedom against discrimination.”
He says while he understands that the reforms are important to Lesotho he does not think they should be used as an excuse to suspend criminal proceedings against any person pending the finalization of the reforms.

The suspension of the criminal proceedings is not sanctioned by the constitution or any other law.
Senatla also mentions former police commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa and deputy LCD leader Tseliso Mokhosi who have also benefited from the clause. Letsoepa is wanted for various crimes while Mokhosi has already been charged and is out on bail.

Senatla says criminal proceedings against those two are now going to be briefly suspended because of clause 10. He argues that the clause undermines the independence of the judiciary in that it blocks the Director of Public Prosecutions and the DCDEO from doing their work.

Senatla cites the Minister of Law, Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, Leader of the Opposition (Mathibeli Mokhothu), the DPP and the Attorney General.
The Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo has already voiced his concerns against the clause, arguing that it is unconstitutional. There are unconfirmed reports that some senior government officials are not happy with the clause. The family of slain army commander Maaparankoe Mahao has already criticised the agreement. So have the other families of victims of crime during the political crisis.

Staff Reporter

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