Thabane wants lawyers arrested

Thabane wants lawyers arrested

MASERU – PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane says the three prominent lawyers challenging the appointment of Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane to the Court of Appeal should be arrested for allegedly using an illegally acquired document to fight their legal battle.
In an affidavit Thabane accuses the three lawyers Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, Advocates Motiea Teele KC and Karabo Mohau KC of relying on a government gazette he said they should not have acquired because it was withdrawn before it was released.

The gazette announcing the appointment of South Africa’s Justice Yvonne Mokgoro was printed earlier this month but Thabane says it was never published.  The three lawyers have however attached the gazette to their court papers and it is the premise of their case against the government’s appointment of Justice Hlajoane.

Thabane says there are ample grounds for the lawyers to be arrested for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act, the Internal Security Act and the Penal Code. “I have a strong conviction that the law enforcement machinery of the state have to follow the issue up, if only to eradicate this kind of conduct by people such as the applicants who access secret documents of the state before they (are) entitled to access them,” Thabane said.
Several high ranking officials from parliament, the office of the Attorney General and Government Printers told the court that the gazette was illegally leaked.

Thabane and the Parliamentary Counsel, Ntebaleng Morojele, said there must be an investigation to find out who leaked the unpublished gazette to the lawyers. “They unlawfully accessed the inchoate secret document of the government, practically caused confusion and disturbed peace of the citizenry in circulating the document in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the government of Lesotho to such an extent that they proceeded to distribute it to the opposition political parties with the view of painting a picture that my governing style is interfering with the independence of the judiciary,” Thabane said.

“That is their covert campaign and it is supported mainly by my opponents in politics,” he said. “They rely on this impugned document which they accessed in contravention of the law to sustain the present politically-driven litigation and this is having deleterious effect over the confidence the citizens have in the judiciary.

Thabane also said their actions undermined the internal security of the state “to the extent that (they) have not disclosed to this Honourable Court how they accessed the gazette that had not yet been published”. “They did not even purchase it as it was not available for sale. It can only mean that they obtained the gazette unlawfully and in contravention” of the law, he said.

Morojele told the court that any printed documents which were produced for the purpose of publication are kept internally and destroyed without public participation and knowledge, once they are not published. “We are bound to function on a very strong loyalty ethic to the classified information communicated to us and may not release such information through illicit means,” Morojele said.

“I was shocked when I saw this annexure being circulated in social media houses as if it was a lawfully published document,” she said.
Morojele said when she saw the document on Facebook and WhatsApp she made enquiries and the officials at the Government Printing told her that “not a single copy was sold to public nor a single copy has left the premises of the Government Printing”. She said the Acting Printer, Mokhachane Posholi, “guaranteed that all copies which were printed for purposes of the publication and sale to the public were still intact and were safely kept in a safe in his custody”. “Any person who leaked this information must be dealt with,” she said.

Senate Sekotlo

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