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Defending the oppressed



MASERU – LIEUTENANT General Tlali Kamoli, who is facing a plethora of charges ranging from murder to treason, has been languishing in remand at the Maseru Maximum Prison for the past 11 months. Yet even within the prison walls, Lt Gen Kamoli remains an enigma, feared and loathed in equal measure.
Curiously, even after being stripped of the command of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), the Thomas Thabane-led government still insists Lt Gen Kamoli remains a “dangerous” man with considerable influence within the army.

The mere mention of his name still sends a chill down the spines of his political enemies who see him as the “Devil incarnate” himself.
His critics accuse him of presiding over terrible human rights violations when he led the army between August 2014 and June last year when Pakalitha Mosisili was ousted as Prime Minister. A few months later, Lt Gen Kamoli was locked up.

His attempts to seek bail have so far not been successful.
Mosisili never hid his admiration of Lt Gen Kamoli, famously describing him as a “loyal and competent soldier”.
As Lt Gen Kamoli waits for his day in court, his fate will ultimately rest on the shoulders of a 38-year-old lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati, a lawyer with a fearsome reputation as a human rights defender.

It is a reputation that he has slowly built over the last decade by taking on difficult cases that most lawyers would not ordinarily be willing to handle.
For instance, Molati fought long and hard to get justice for Mokalekale Khetheng, a junior police officer who “disappeared” at a police station in Hlotse in 2017, only for his decomposing body to be found buried in a pauper’s grave in Maseru.

Four senior police officers, including former defence minister Tseliso Mokhosi have since been charged for Khetheng’s death. They deny the charge arguing the case is politically motivated.
Molati is also representing ‘Makarabo Mojakhomo who “disappeared” at the police headquarters in Maseru under controversial circumstances. Mojakhomo had been arrested for allegedly stealing from a trust fund run by First Lady Maeasiah Thabane.

There were fears she had been killed only for her to resurface in South Africa some months later.
But Molati’s biggest case so far appears to be that of Lt Gen Kamoli.
Through his eyes, readers can get a sneak preview of the General himself, famously described by former US ambassador Mathew Harrington as a “deeply divisive figure” in Lesotho politics.
Molati says Lt Gen Kamoli has been unfairly vilified.

He also says there appears to be “a disconnect” between the public’s perception of the former army commander and who he really is.
As his trusted lawyer, Molati must surely know. He has been privy to some of the most intimate details of what happened behind the corridors of power during the last four tumultuous years.
He says his relationship with Lt Gen Kamoli began at a time when the General was accused of threatening lawyers after they served him some court papers.
With no lawyer brave enough to confront the General, Molati says he took the decision that he was going to do it.

“I volunteered to take the case on behalf of the Law Society and sue him. We wanted the court to order him to apologise,” he says.
Yet after he confronted the General at his offices, he was immediately surprised by the General’s charm. It turned out to be a very friendly meeting between the two.
“It was a completely different picture from the impression I had built about him that he was a bad man,” he says.

There was an immediate connection between the two. And when Lt Gen Kamoli was arrested in September last year, he asked Molati to represent him in court.
Molati argues that Lt Gen Kamoli was merely a “victim of Lesotho’s bad politics in which one would commit a crime if he refused to perform a particular act”.
As a human rights lawyer, Molati says he is guided by simple values of “being frank, fair and firm, no matter who is involved”.
There is a perception that Molati is a trouble-maker who is out to defend controversial figures fighting the government.
Molati says that is not true. His loyalty lies with defending the poor, the oppressed and the marginalised.

He believes most lawyers in Lesotho have allowed themselves to be “intimidated by those in power”. The result is that they stop serving the interests of their clients.
“People don’t get justice not because justice is not available but because some lawyers feel intimidated,” he says.
He believes certain decisions must be taken on the basis of principle “to shape the destiny of this country”.

“As lawyers, we must divorce politics from legal practice. If something is wrong, it is wrong no matter who is doing it.”
Molati says the problem is that some lawyers have allowed themselves to be bought by politicians and “now hold secret meetings with politicians”. It is a despicable practice that should not have any place in the legal profession, Molati says.

He says he has refused to be bought “by those with money” who are out to oppress the poor.
Molati says he truly believes the judiciary is facing a grave threat from the executive.
He accuses the coalition government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane of seeking to capture the judiciary to push a narrow political agenda.
He says it is very clear that the government wants suspended Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara out so they could install their own malleable judge to do their bidding in pursuing political enemies.
“I hold the view the government does not like the (suspended) Chief Justice because she has refused to dance to their guitar; she quotes the law to define which powers can be exercised by who,” he says.

That has infuriated the government and therefore wants her out, he says.
Molati argues the charges levelled against Justice Majara were trumped up.
“They are a smokescreen,” he says.

Molati says the charge that Justice Majara has failed to deliver judgements was a pathetic argument because there are “only two judges in the High Court who don’t owe litigants judgements”.
“The rest of the judges have got judgements which have been pending for as long as three years for some of them and the situation is continuing.”
That is not because the judges are lazy but because the government has failed to adequately fund the operations of the judiciary for decades.

“The High Court is not properly financed. The lifts have not been functioning for the last 10 years, and you want to blame that on the Chief Justice?”
He says the government has also sought to usurp the functions of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) by seeking to hire foreign judges to hear high profile cases.
Molati says while he was overruled on the subject, he thinks it is wrong for the executive to hire judges who might hear cases in which some of them are implicated.
That would be a clear case of conflict of interest, he says.

Molati believes it will take a “generational shift” to address the myriad of challenges facing Lesotho.
For a start, he wants the “old guard” to retire and pass the baton on.
“We have to get rid of the old stock in Parliament,” he says.

“No one above the age of 65 should be in Parliament. We don’t want them to retire from the civil service at 60, then enter Parliament only to sleep throughout the entire tenure of Parliament.”
The “old guard” must go and play with their grandchildren.

Letuka was born on April 10, 1980 at Khanyane in Leribe. He says he grew up in a family of litigants.
“They would litigate because they believed in the resolution of disputes through courts of law,” he says.
And so from a young age, Molati knew that “litigation was part of life”.

Even when he was in high school, Molati soon developed a reputation as a “fierce debater”. During the school holidays, he would visit the Hlotse Magistrates’ Court to watch court proceedings.
The young Molati would be left spellbound by the prosecutorial prowess of one Lebeta. He would also read extensively on the courts and court settings. He quietly soaked up the lessons.
And so it was no surprise that when he found himself at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) in 1999, he naturally drifted towards law. He graduated from the NUL in 2005. He now runs Molati Chambers.

Staff Reporter

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Lawyer in trouble



A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.

It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.

Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.

Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.

According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.

The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.

During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.

His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.

Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.

He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.

Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.

Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.

Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.

Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.

He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.

The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Trio in court for killing ‘witches’



THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.

Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.

They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.

The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.

Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.

Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.

He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.

“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.

He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.

They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.

Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.

He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.

Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.

He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.

Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.

He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.

“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.

He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.

Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.

The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.

Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.

“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.

“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.

He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.

Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.

He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.

The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.

“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.

Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.

He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.

Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.

He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.

“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”

He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.

Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.

He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.

Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.

“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.

The case continues.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Opposition fights back



THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.

Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.

But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.

The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.

Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.

Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.

It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.

The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.

The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.

“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.

“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”

“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.

The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.

“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.

He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.

“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.

“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”

He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.

“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.

Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.

“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.

Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.

“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.

“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”

The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.

The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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