Thabane hauled over coals
MASERU – FORMER Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has been hauled over the coals for allegedly uttering statements the crown says were derogatory to King Letsie III.
Thabane was this week granted free bail after he briefly appeared in the Maseru Magistrates’ Court.
Thabane, who is also the leader of the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the official leader of the opposition in parliament, is facing three charges for speaking ill of the King.
The crown says on March 7 at a press conference at the Basotho National Party (BNP) premises in Maseru, Thabane broke the Penal Code when he “unlawfully and intentionally uttered statements that were derogatory of His Majesty, King Letsie III”.
Thabane is also accused of breaching Section 4 read with sections 2 and 3 of the Sedition and Proclamation Act in that on the same date and place, “he made seditious utterances that could make the nation or part of it look down upon His Majesty”.
The charge sheet partly quotes Thabane as saying: “Motho eo o batla ho nkutloa lehe ke se khoho, ha a sheba lehe le ka tsoa kae ho ’na moo”, a highly offensive Sesotho expression.
Loosely translated, the statement said, ‘Does this man want to feel an egg in me although I am not a hen? Looking at me where can the egg come out?’
Thabane is also facing a third charge of violating Section 90 of the Penal Code, Number 6 in that he made statements that could be deemed to undermine the courts.
The charge sheet says Thabane made these statements knowing that they were not true.
He is also accused of challenging the independence of the courts in the statements he made.
During the press conference which was held jointly by the opposition parties, ABC, Basotho National Party (BNP), Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and Alliance of Democrats (AD), Thabane said King Letsie III could be removed from office.
“I am not saying he should be removed now but I am saying he could be removed,” Thabane said.
He also indicated that Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had no right to advise the King to dissolve the parliament since they had toppled him through a vote-of-no-confidence.
Thabane said King Letsie III was not his age-mate but that of his children adding he himself was peers with his late father King Moshoeshoe II.
Advocate Haae Phoofolo, for the defence, told the court that his client is being prosecuted for no good reasons.
He appealed to the court to look carefully into the case to see if it was really necessary.
Phoofolo argued that his client is a former Prime Minister of Lesotho and bringing him to court for issues such as this one is merely meant to tarnish his image.
He told the court that the prosecution is also meant to bring Thabane’s party into disrepute.
“This prosecution that is instituted at this time is merely meant to belittle my client,” Phoofolo told the court.
“It is meant to demean and disparage him,” he added.
Phoofolo maintained that the charge against Thabane is without substance and was based on flimsy grounds.
He submitted to the court that the timing of the case was meant to impede Thabane’s bid to seek votes for the upcoming election on June 3.
“He has to be busy going from one place to another canvassing for the elections,” said Phoofolo.
The defence counsel indicated that they are not saying their client should not be prosecuted but argued this should not be done at this time when he has to be fully involved in campaign activities.
He said Thabane has never lived in peace since he stepped down as Prime Minister of Lesotho two years ago.
“He has just returned from exile,” he said.
“The prosecution is just a continuation of the persecutions against him.”
Meanwhile, Advocate Makhetha Motšoari who was part of the defence team, told the court that Thabane is a citizen of Lesotho who will be standing for the National Assembly elections in Ha Abia constituency on June 3.
Motšoari said Thabane has been cooperative during the investigations. He pleaded with the court not to remand Thabane and to release him on free bail.
Advocate Mohale for the crown asked the court not to concentrate on the campaigning issue raised by the defence counsel but to go straight to the charges.
The court will set a hearing date of the case on May 2.
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