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A massive blow to government

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MASERU – THE era of the government and public institutions using a litigant’s lack of legal standing to fend off legal cases against them is over.

That is thanks to the recent constitutional court judgement that has opened the way for individuals to sue the government in the name of ‘public interest’.

The court made the ruling in a case in which journalist Kananelo Boloetse and Advocate Lintle Tuke had challenged Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s declaration of a state of emergency that led to the recalling of parliament.

They also wanted the court to nullify the national reforms laws and constitutional amendments passed by the parliament after it was recalled.

The judgement means the reforms are dead in the water and can only be passed by the next parliament unless the government wins the appeal.

Apart from rolling back or delaying the reforms, the judgement has also created important legal precedence that could help individuals to use the courts to hold the government’s public institutions to account.

It means anyone can cite public interest to sue the government or a public institution.

No longer can the government argue that a person doesn’t have legal standing to bring a case against it.

No one understands the far-reaching implications of the ruling better than the President of the Law Society of Lesotho, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, who said Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane has “midwifed” the public interest standing and public interest litigation in this judgment.

Advocate Maqakachane has never made a secret of his opposition to the state of emergency and recalling of parliament.

He warned the Council of State against declaring a state of emergency.

The Law Society had also applied to challenge the decision.

He says the ruling has blown the government out of the water.

He says for years the government has used the 154-year-old narrow common law standing in Lesotho (in public law litigation) to insulate itself from people who demand accountability and transparency.

That legal shield, Advocate Maqakachane says, “has been dealt a final deadly blow by the decision of the High Court”.

“It is likely to be buried forever,” he says.

He says the birth pangs of “public interest standing” have long agonised and traumatised public-spirited individuals who had the interest to raise constitutional or public law questions in the courts concerning public wrongs committed by public functionaries”.

He says Justice Sakoane has allowed “any person with interest, but who cannot prove individual injury as a result of public wrong occasioning general public injury, to approach the High Court and seek the appropriate relief”.

“The public wrongs which otherwise remained immunised from judicial scrutiny, will henceforth easily be reviewed and audited for compliance with legality and rule of law by the High Court,” he said.

“The corridors of power will be shepherded by the courts through the public interest litigation.”

The Boloetse and Tuke constitutional case is a true “caesarean section” through which we welcome to life the public interest standing and public interest litigation in Lesotho, he says.

The judgment has also felled Lesotho’s Millennium Challenge Account, Lesotho Authority II Bill, 2022 which was set to provide for the domestication of the compact and Programme Implementation Agreement (PIA).

The judgment has also blocked a new law aimed at economically empowering women married under customary law.

The Laws of Lerotholi (Amendment) Bill 2022 proposed that a widow shall “have ownership and control of the property of the joint estate after the death of her husband” irrespective of whether she was married customarily or through civil rights.

The passing of the amendment is a precondition to Lesotho accessing the second MCC’s US$300 million (about M52.4 billion) development compact.

The judgment has also nullified the Metolong Authority (Amendment) Bill which would relieve the government from the financial burden of operating the Metolong Authority.

The judgment has also made the National Assembly Electoral (Amendment) null and void.

The Bill provided for the improvement of the current voters’ register for the local government as well as the national elections by the use of national identity cards.

For the upcoming elections, however, both voters’ cards and national identity cards will be used.

The Bill provided for registered electors legally residing outside Lesotho to participate in the national or local government elections and vote as advance electors.

Staff Reporter

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6 more added to Manyokole’s corruption case

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MASERU – SIX more officials from the Land Administrative Authority (LAA) and the Maseru City Council (MCC) were this week joined to Lefu Manyokole’s corruption case.

Ntšebo Putsoa, Ntsoaki Matobo, Matlaleha Phahlane, Thakane Tau, Phakoane Pitikoe and Lebaka Matlatsa were formally charged and appeared before Magistrate ’Makopano Rantšo on Monday.

Court papers show that the accused contravened the Land Act between April 2016 and May 2018 at the LAA, they unlawfully and intentionally fraudulently processed the registration or issued a lease or any other document or instrument relating to land plot no. 13291-1110.

The state alleges that Manyokole, who is the former principal secretary in the Ministry of local government, made false representations to the LAA regarding plot number 13291-1110 to acquire illegal title to it.

The charge sheet says Manyokole, at or near the LAA offices in Maseru, registered or obtained a lease of the plot knowing that it did not belong to him.

Manyokole is accused of contravening provisions of section 83 of the Land Act of 2010 by making a false claim to gain the piece of land.

The court released Manyokole on M1 000 bail last week and ordered him to reappear before the same court last Monday.

Manyokole was granted bail under conditions that he should not interfere with the crown witnesses and that he should report to the police.

His co-accused were also granted bail of M1 000 each by the court.

The court papers showed that the said land was situated in Qoaling in Maseru district and Manyokole and his co-accused knew very well that they are not the official owners of that land.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Storm over fleet maintenance deal

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MASERU – Opposition parties are fuming after the government this week picked five companies to maintain its fleet without going through a tender process.

In a January 27, 2023 savingram, the Ministry of Finance said it had appointed Maseru Toyota, Maputsoe Toyota, Lesotho Nissan, Benny Enterprise, and Mdlokovana to maintain the government’s fleet.

The savingram, titled Interim Vehicle Maintenance Guidelines, says the vehicle maintenance contract signed between the Lesotho government and Fleet Services Lesotho (FSL) in 2020 “experienced serious challenges that involved the suspension of services in 2021 which were later resumed partially in 2022”.

“Since then the government made attempts to resolve some issues which were under its control without success,” it reads.

It also says the Ministry of Finance held a meeting with local vehicle service providers accredited by FSL.

“These are Maseru Toyota, Maputsoe Toyota, Lesotho Nissan, Benny Enterprise, and Mdlokovana,” it reads.

It says the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “the possibility of working directly with the government while processes of resolving issues between the government and the FSL shareholders are underway”.

This has however infuriated opposition parties that have accused the government of corruptly dishing out jobs without going through a tender process.

The Democratic Congress (DC)’s deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa, told thepost that the party will soon call a press conference to address the matter.

“We always knew that these rich people would start dishing out tenders to themselves,” Letsosa said.

He said they have been warning the nation about the same people even before the general elections “but they called us names saying we have been benefiting too, now look”.

“The time for the rich people to eat in the face of hungry Basotho has come,” he said.

“No one should cry, we warned them not to vote for these people and they did not listen.”

He complained that the companies mentioned on the savingram did not even tender for the job.

“We are surprised that no tendering processes were followed here.”

He added that when giving themselves the tenders the government suspended the initial company that had been awarded the tender.

“It is not fair at all. How can you be the government and do business with yourself?”

Letsosa said the DC is “against the individualism that is being practised by the parties in government by not advertising the tenders so that all interested parties can bid”.

The Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) leader, Teboho Mojapela, said “the RFP heavyweights (made) their riches through corruption”.

“We always warned the people that these rich men would steal tenders at every chance they get, now they are doing just that,” Mojapela said.

“As a rich man I never did business with the government,” he said.

“This country needs rich leaders on the forefront, but not corrupt ones.”

He said time will expose what Basotho have called upon themselves by voting for the current government.

“They are showing their true colours now.”

He added that this will be a lesson to Basotho to start looking at qualities of politicians when voting.

“They must vote for people who fear God and are faithful,” he said.

“The RFP people are corrupt and all of them will never change, they are going to continue enriching themselves.”

The Basotho Action Party (BAP) deputy leader, Lebohang Thotanyana, said the government is “committing a crime by not issuing tenders for the job”.

“Mdlokovana is an interested party, it is a big mistake to give him a tender unless it is now their policy to award themselves tenders,” Thotanyana said.

Clute Mdlokovana, the owner of the car maintenance chain of businesses named after his name, is the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP for Mohale’s Hoek constituency.

Thotanyana said Mdlokovana will not be able to keep service providers to the government accountable as an MP “because he too is a service provider to the government”.

He also said the previous governments always advertised tenders “but these people just sit down and award themselves tenders, they did not even tender”.

The Basotho National Party (BNP) secretary general, Moeketsi Hanyane, also condemned the government’s move.

He recalled that during the BNP government, Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan once barred his ministers from being actively involved in running businesses.

“He told Chief Peete Peete to sell all his buses so that he could give a chance to other Basotho to do business,” Hanyane said.

“It is high time Basotho as a nation stood up to condemn the bad behavior of the RFP,” he said.

“It is not fair that the already rich people will be richer while other citizens suffer,” he said.

“Mdlokovana is a Member of Parliament, imagine how many millions he is going to make with this deal with the government.”

Nkheli Liphoto

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How MP’s wife was killed

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MASERU – A suspected love triangle has left an MP’s wife dead.

’Maretšepile Mabote, the wife of Malefane Mabote who is the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP for Tsikoane, was allegedly ambushed at her Tsikoane home by a hitman suspected to have been hired by her husband’s long-standing girlfriend.

The girlfriend, Bokang Mahlelehlele, is alleged to have been with the alleged hitman when he sprayed bullets on ’Maretšepile last Friday.

Deputy police spokesperson, Inspector ’Mareabetsoe Mofoka said Maretšepile’s teenage daughter responded to a knock on the door at around 10pm.

Inspector Mofoka said a man at the door asked the daughter to call his mother. She said as ’Maretšepile was approaching the door the man opened fire.

“Unfortunately when the deceased was at the passage to attend to her visitor, she was sprayed with a hail of bullets,” Inspector Mofoka said.

“She died on the spot.”

Inspector Mofoka said the suspect then fled in a 4+1 taxi that was waiting nearby. Alarm was raised and neighbours gave chase.

The neighbours were soon joined by the police. She said as the neighbours approached the car a man who the police suspect to be the hitman jumped out and disappeared into the darkness.

The police and the neighbours however caught up with the car.

Mahlelehlele, 32, whose affair with Mabote is said to be a public secret, was in the car. The driver was 27-year-old Matsoso Maekane. Mahlelehlele and Maekane were arrested and appeared in the Leribe magistrate’s court on Tuesday. They were remanded in custody.

The suspected hitman is still at large.

Inspector Mofoka said so far nothing links Mabote to the murder that has left the people of Tsikoane shocked. Mahlelehlele is a nursing lecturer at the National University of Lesotho while ’Maretšepile, 30, was a nurse at Motebang Hospital in Leribe.

Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced but Maretšepile’s grieving relatives are fuming.

thepost spoke to three relatives who all said they saw her death coming. They said they knew that Mabote and ’Maretšepile had several quarrels, some violent, about Mahlelehlele.

Mosa Ngatane, ’Maretšepile’s brother, said his sister lived a life of misery because of Mahlelehlele.

Ngatane said he is not surprised that Mahlelehlele is being implicated in the murder because she was openly having an affair with Mabote.

‘Makhomotso Ngatane, Ngatane’s wife and Maretšepile’s sister-in-law, said she knew Mahlelehlele as Mabote’s lover.

She also said she is not surprised Mahlelehlele has been arrested in connection with Maretšepile’s death.

thepost could not verify some of the allegations that ‘Makhomotso made about the way Mabote treated his wife.

She said Maretšepile once lived with her after a particularly nasty dispute with her husband.

Last night, Mabote said he was not in a position to speak about his wife’s death or the allegations that he was having an affair with Mahlelehlele.

“This is too much for me,” Mabote said, adding that he will only be able to talk to the media after his wife’s funeral.

“I will be ready for the interview after the funeral. I will even tell you the funeral date,” he said.

“We are still discussing the burial date as the family.”

In the aftermath of the incident some people have posted the picture of Mabote and Mahlelehlele on social media.

Staff Reporter

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