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We’ll boycott courts until we get paid: lawyers

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MASERU – Defence lawyers representing some soldiers who are charged with various crimes say they will not appear in court unless the government coughs up.

The lawyers told thepost yesterday that they are not happy that the government was paying huge amounts of money to prosecutors while they had been promised paltry amounts.

What has however incensed them more is the fact that the government has not even paid them those smaller amounts.

The lawyers say they will not appear in court until they are paid.

The soldiers are being charged with the murder of former army commander, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, and the killing of three men whose bodies were later dumped in Mohale Dam.

The arrangement was that the defence lawyers would be paid a fee of M1 500 every time they appeared in court.

Advocate Kabelo Letuka has two pro deo cases where he is representing a soldier in the Mahao murder case and the Mohale Dam case respectively.

He also charges M1 500 to prepare a case before court. Advocate Letuka has so far appeared in court 41 times. His fees for appearance and preparation of the case could get to a staggering M63 000.

However, Advocate Letuka could not confirm the exact amounts he is owed.

“I cannot participate in the proceedings any further unless and until the office of the registrar has given a commitment that the pro deo fees that I have been promised will be paid,” he said.

Meanwhile, Advocate Napo Mafaesa said he is struggling to pay rent and other bills because the government owes him.

Advocate Mafaesa is representing four soldiers in the Mahao murder case, two in the Mohale Dam, one in a treason case and two in bombings at Moshoeshoe II which happened in 2014.

Advocate Mafaesa declined to reveal how much he is owed.

Advocate Letuka Molati, who is appearing for former army boss Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, said the government pays about M40 000 to the two prosecution lawyers, Advocates Abrahams and Motene Rafoneke, while a defence lawyer is paid a paltry M1 500 per appearance.

thepost understands that the government could be coughing about M1.1 million in 30 days to pay the two prosecutors.

Advocate Abrahams, thepost has learnt, is paid M25 000 per day while Advocate Rafoneke is paid M13 000.

Advocate Molati said they were appointed on pro deo, meaning the government was going to pay for the accused’s legal bills.

He said for every 30 days he appears for an accused, he is entitled to be paid M45 000 while the government pays more than one million maloti to the prosecution team.

“I can’t break down the figure to a daily fee as it is a closely guarded information,” he said.

The cases still need at least 300 days in court and this means they might be completed in 2025.

In the event of the cases going beyond 2025, the government would still need to pay prosecutors M30 million on top of the M10 million that has already been paid to the prosecution team.

“We have had more than two incidents where cases could not proceed because the prosecution was owed legal fees,” he said.

“The prosecution has so far been paid more than M10 million. The defence lawyers have been paid zero maloti.”

Advocate Molati said because the court had allowed the prosecution to stop the cases from proceeding when the prosecution team had not been paid, “I am adopting a similar strategy”.

“I won’t show up in court unless I have been paid,” he said.

He cites the constitutional right to equality which is “do unto the defense lawyer(s) what you did to the prosecution lawyer(s)”.

“Yes the cases might be in limbo until such time that the defence lawyers have been paid.”

He says he is willing to suffer the indignity of being paid for a month’s work what prosecutors earn in one day “but I am not willing to suffer the indignity of having to beg for the paltry pro deo fees to be released”.

“Otherwise I will be becoming irresponsible by being complicit in a grave constitutional rights violation escapade,” he said.

The greatest tragedy in this whole affair, he said, is that only prosecutors and judges were catered for “while defence lawyers were intentionally excluded”.

Majara Molupe

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SR mob attacks journalist

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MASERU – TŠENOLO FM presenter, Abiel Sebolai, was allegedly beaten and injured by a mob of Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) supporters on Saturday.

Sebolai said the mob, which he suspected was drunk, attacked him with fists, sticks and stones.

He said the group was enraged after he tried to take pictures of their cars which belonged to the Ministry of Local Government

Sebolai told thepost that he had gone to Thaba-Tseka with the Thaba-Moea MP, Puseletso Lejone Paulose, on a work trip when he spotted a group of people clad in SR regalia riding in the government vehicle, hoisting beer bottles.

“We were in Mantšonyane when I saw the Local Government vehicle full of men and women with bottles of beer in their hands,” Sebolai said.

“I saw that the majority were wearing Socialist Revolutionaries regalia.”

He wanted to talk about the abuse of government vehicles on his programme the next day.

“I then took out my phone to capture a few pictures and a video,” he said.

He said just as he started taking pictures, the vehicle made a U-turn and approached him.

“The driver came to me and asked me what I was doing with my phone,” he said.

He said he told the driver that there was nothing wrong with taking pictures as a journalist.

“The person I was with reprimanded him and he attempted to walk away only to turn back and punch me.”

“After the first punch, I retaliated by throwing a punch too. I managed to hit him hard and he fell.”

He said the group then jumped off the car and started assaulting him with stones and sticks.

Sebolai said he tried to flee but was stopped by the “stones that were coming to me like rain until I was hit and fell”.

“What nearly took my life was a stone that was thrown while I was falling. It hit me on the forehead and from then I went blind.”

“They were insulting me so much.”

Sebolai said he was helped by a Good Samaritan who risked his life to drag him into his vehicle.

“From there I was taken to the clinic in Lesobeng before an ambulance took me to Mantšonyane Hospital.”

“I went to the Mantšonyane police station where I found the same Local Government vehicle parked,” he said.

“I am told that the Local Government Minister instructed it to be impounded and my assailants arrested.”

He complained that he was injured while doing his work “but the Ministry (of Communications) and MISA are silent about my attack”.

The SR spokesman, Thabo Shao, told thepost that they received a report about the incident and the party does not “condone that behaviour”.

“I hear arrests are not yet made, those people should be arrested,” he said.

The MISA director, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, said the board will soon meet to discuss the matter and call the victim before issuing a statement.

“We are going to work it out and then issue a condemnation,” Ntsukunyane said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Infighting rocks BNP

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MASERU – THE Basotho National Party (BNP) has become the latest party to be rocked by infighting triggered by its dismal performance in the October election.

As the party grapples to come to terms with its thumping defeat bigwigs have been pelting each other with blame for the poor performance.

So intense is the internal feuding that the party is now said to be on the verge of implosion.

In the tug of war is the party’s secretary general, Moeketsi Hanyane, who this week fired a salvo at party leader Machesetsa Mofomobe.

Hanyane told a press conference on Tuesday that Mofomobe should accept the blame for leading the party to its worst election defeat in history.

He said instead of taking responsibility as a leader, Mofomobe is blaming him for the dismissal performance.

Mofomobe has however fired back, accusing Hanyane of being rebellious.

“It has been a while since I have been shouldering the blame for the general election’s poor results,” Hanyane said, adding that Mofomobe has been instigating his supporters to insult him.

He said the party did not perform well because it didn’t have money to campaign.

He said the BNP did not get its share of the political campaign funding from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) because it failed to account for what it received in the 2015 election.

Out of the M175 000 that the BNP was supposed to get from the IEC, it got only M15 000 as campaign funds, Hanyane said.

He also said those in the past BNP national executive committee, of which Mofomobe was a member, did not account for the campaign funding received in 2017.

“As a result, our party failed to secure M111 000.”

Hanyane said because of the financial problems the party used rentals from its BNP Centre to fund the rallies in Maputsoe, Quthing, Mafeteng and Teya-Teyaneng.

He said this was the first time since 1993 that the party could not afford to print campaign regalia.

Hanyane also said the national executive committee is chaotic under Mofomobe’s leadership.

“They accuse other members of sabotage, which shows a lack of cooperation in the party.”

Mofomobe, Hanyane added, spent more time mocking other party leaders instead of advancing the BNP’s values and policies.

He said instead of pleading with members of other parties to vote for the BNP, Mofomobe called them “idiots beyond redemption”.

No wonder, Hanyane said, people turned against the party.

He said Mofomobe was not ashamed to use valuable campaign time to mock leaders who own aeroplanes.

“He said their aeroplanes were made of cardboxes, and that was his campaign message,” he said.

 

He also said the BNP supporters were put off by Mofomobe’s close relations with

Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu.

“That issue did not sit well with some party supporters and followers in constituencies,” Hanyane said.

He said Mofomobe angered the chiefs and the church, the party’s traditional pillars.

“The chiefs regarded our party as one of the parties that were fighting them and the church too, those are the pillars of the party.”

He said Mofomobe should “go back and apologise to the chiefs and the church for hurting them”.

“The leadership should also apologise to the members where they did wrong.”

Mofomobe however said Hanyane will face the music for organising a press conference without the national executive committee’s approval.

“The party will meet as soon as possible to take internal measures against the secretary general for doing what he did,” Mofomobe said.

He accused Hanyane of ignoring his orders.

“I told him to go on radio to campaign for the Stadium Area elections but he refused and I ended up going there myself,” Mofomobe said.

He said he will not hate Mokhothu without a valid reason.

“I will not hate him just because people want me to hate him,” he said.

He also stated that although they work well with Mokhothu he has his own reservations that include the DC’s support for Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been wallowing in remand prison for the past five years as he goes through trial for murder, attempted murders and treason charges.

The DC is on record pushing for the withdrawal of charges against Lt Gen Kamoli.

Mofomobe said he is not the first BNP leader to work with congress parties as Leabua Jonathan, the party founder, once worked with Basutoland Congress Party (BCP)’s Pokane Ramoreboli who he made justice minister.

Nkheli Liphoto 

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Rogue soldier loses bid to save job

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MASERU – A soldier who insulted his superior for stopping him from joining a crowd that later killed a civilian during a drunken fit of anger at a bar has lost his bid to overturn his dismissal from the army.

The Court of Appeal last week ruled that army commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, followed the law to the letter when he fired Private Lehlohonolo Alotsi.

The case was before the President of the Court of Appeal, Professor Kananelo Mosito, Justices Phillip Musonda and November Mtshiya.

The court found that on Christmas Day of 2018, Alotsi, together with nine other soldiers, was on patrol at the Ha-Peete Military Base.

They went to a local bar and ended up staying outside the barracks until after 10pm, which is the prescribed time for soldiers to be back inside the barracks. A fight broke out at the bar between the soldiers and some civilians.

The soldiers went back to the barracks and ordered their superior, one Corporal Thabi, to hand over some riffles to them. Corporal Thabi ordered them not to go but his orders were ignored.

Alotsi told the court that he did not go but admitted that he used abusive language against his superior. Thereafter there was a shootout at the bar leading to the death of a civilian. Some civilians were also injured in the shootout.

On New Year’s Eve Alotsi and his co-accused appeared before Presiding Officer, Major Lekoatsa, for summary trial relating to military offences they had committed at Ha-Peete. They all pleaded guilty to the charges laid against them.

Alotsi was charged with disobedience, acting in a disorderly manner, and using inappropriate language to a superior officer. Major Lekoatsa found him guilty and sentenced him to 80 days in detention.

He was also severely reprimanded. Major Lekoatsa told Alotsi that he had 14 days within which to appeal against the sentence.

Alotsi did not challenge both the conviction and sentence at that time and only did so when Lt Gen Letsoela wrote him a letter saying he should give reasons why he should not be fired.

It was during this time when he revealed that Major Lekoatsa had coerced him to confess even though he was not involved in committing the crimes, apart from disrespecting his superior.

In his letter to Lt Gen Letsoela, Alotsi apologised for being out of the barracks beyond 10pm, saying he did not do it intentionally.

“My intention was still to make it back on time but being human, I got carried away,” he pleaded.

“General Sir,” he continued, “here I give a full account of the truth.”

He told the army boss that there was a fight that broke out at a bar and he had no idea how it started and how it ended.

He said they ran back to the barracks to ask for guns to rescue one Private Ramarou.

“I, Pvt Alotsi, was never given a gun, the guns were given to Private Teolo and Private Khoaisanyane,” he said.

“Commander Lesotho Defence Staff, General Sir, I yet again implore you for mercy as I had been in an unwarranted exchange with Corporal Tlhabi, where it appears that I insulted him,” he pleaded.

“I am not a vulgar person at all. I am a soldier who respects a lot, I follow orders,” he said.

“Corporal Tlhabi was ordering me to not go back with the soldiers to go get Private Ramarou. I indeed stayed behind.”

“I deeply apologise, General, Sir.”

The court found that Lt Gen Letsoela has prerogative to fire any soldier or officer if in his judgment his continued service “is not in the best interests of the Defence Force” or the soldier “has been convicted of a civil or military offence”.

“Depending on the gravity of the offence, (the army commander), even in a situation where a soldier is pardoned, (may) still proceed to discharge him or her,” the court said.

“There is no dispute that the offences committed were serious and obviously offended the standing ethics of the force.”

Alotsi had taken the commander to the High Court saying he was being punished twice. The High Court dismissed his application, leading to this appeal.

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