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Warrant of arrest blows cracks wide open

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MASERU-THE issuance of a warrant of arrest for Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane on Monday has exposed massive cracks within the coalition government.

The two biggest partners in the government, the Democratic Congress (DC) and the All Basotho Convention (ABC), are backing opposing views, threatening the cohesion of government.
The DC says it is vehemently opposed to the warrant of arrest. It also wants the criminal charges levelled against Metsing, who leads the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), and Mochoboroane, who leads the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), dropped.

The All Basotho Convention (ABC), which is the biggest partner in the coalition government, says the two must face the music over their role in the August 30, 2014 events.
The ABC has always insisted that the events of the night were an attempted coup against the then government led by Thomas Thabane.
It accuses former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli of orchestrating the “attempted coup”. Lt Gen Kamoli is currently in remand at Maseru Maximum Prison.

The ABC wants Metsing and Mochoboroane to join Lt Gen Kamoli in the dock to answer the treason charge.
The decision to issue the warrant of arrest comes after top detective, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Paseka Mokete, successfully applied for a warrant of arrest after the two lost their case in the constitutional court.
Metsing and Mochoboroane wanted the court to stop their prosecution but that attempt was thrown out last week.

They are now appealing against the judgment.
On Tuesday, the DC secretary general, Tšitso Cheba, said the charges were a “smear campaign” against the two politicians.
He said when they formed the coalition government with the ABC in May this year one of the conditions was that the treason charges against the two would be dropped.

“We, as the DC, do not support the move to arrest the two leaders,” Cheba said.
He said Mochoboroane is part of the government and if he is arrested, this is definitely going to threaten the stability of the government.
Cheba said their fear was that if Metsing and Mochoboroane were to be arrested they were going to join the soldiers who have been in detention since 2017 without their cases being finalised.

When the DC and the ABC joined forces sometime this year to form the government, Cheba said, the DC insisted that no one implicated in the 2014 incidents would be prosecuted.
“Now we are stunned by the movements taking place,” he said.
He said the DC is calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) so that everyone could be healed.

“If there are those who have to be compensated, that should be allowed to take place,” Cheba said, adding that this should be done to heal broken hearts.
He said they have agreed with their partner in government that they do not want to see anyone skipping the country fearing for their lives.
He said their fear was that no one facing a treason charge would be granted bail.

“So, this is a sure sign that the two are going to rot in jail,” he said.
Cheba argued that this is a well-orchestrated plan to have Mochoboroane and Selibe behind the bars.
“There is someone behind this,” he said without elaborating.
He said peace and stability will not come on a silver plate adding the nation will have to sacrifice for this to happen.

Cheba said they are also in regular contact with the ABC’s national executive committee to see if they are still walking within the coalition agreement.
He insisted the party is still deeply committed to the rule of law and respect for the independence of the judiciary.
The ABC spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa told thepost yesterday that if people have to appear before the courts, they should simply comply.

“This is our standpoint as the party,” Masoetsa said.
Meanwhile, other parties both in and outside of government have joined the chorus to condemn the government for issuing the warrant of arrest.
The LCD is blaming Prime Minister Majoro for pushing for Metsing and Mochoboroane’s prosecution.

The LCD deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, said the national reforms would not have been inclusive enough if Metsing and other politicians had not agreed to come back home from exile.
“There is no reason why Majoro wants our leaders locked up,” Mokhosi said.

“I am not talking about the police or the courts but Majoro, all the things happening are on Majoro’s head alone,” he said.
He said since Dr Majoro’s arrival in office Metsing visited him six times seeking his intervention in the pending charges but he never did.
Mokhosi said there was an agreement that politicians implicated in the events of August 30, 2014 would not be prosecuted until after the national reforms.

The Constitutional Court however said that section of the agreement was unconstitutional, dealing a massive blow to the two politicians’ bid to escape trial.
Mokhosi however said Lesotho’s courts are not independent.
“The courts must be helped to be independent because currently they are influenced by politicians, judges fear losing their jobs,” he said.
“The Prime Minister has to abide by the SADC agreement.”

Mokhosi said they wrote to the SADC envoy, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, informing him that Dr Majoro, “instead of implementing reforms he is busy chasing the political leaders”.
MEC deputy leader Tšepang Tšita-Mosena told a separate press conference that the charges against her leader were political and were meant to tarnish his image.

She said the warrant of arrest was meant to destabilise some political parties in the country.
She said they were pleased by the DC’s press statement saying the treason charge would soon shake the foundations of the government.

“Treason is a big charge that does not have bail,” Tšita-Mosena said.
Tšita-Mosena said the charge is aimed at making Mochoboroane lose vision and also to humiliate him in front of his followers.
She said Mochoboroane is just being punished for exposing corruption when he was still chairman of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
Mochoboroane is now Development Planning Minister.

Majara Molupe

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City Council bosses up for fraud

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THREE senior Maseru City Council (MCC) bosses face charges of fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering.

Town clerk Molete Selete and consultant Molefe Nthabane appeared in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

City engineer Matsoso Tikoe did not appear as he was said to be out of the country. He will be arraigned when he returns.

They are charged together with Kenneth Leong, the project manager of SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture, the company that lost the M379 million Mpilo Boulevard contract in January.

The joint venture made up of two Chinese companies, Shanxi Construction Investment Group (SCIG) and Shanxi Mechanization Construction Group (SMCG), and local partner Tim Plant Hire (TIM), has also been charged.

Selete and Nthabane were released on bail of M5 000 and surety of M200 000 each. Leong was granted bail of M10 000 and surety of M400 000 or property of the same value.

The charges are a culmination of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) investigation that has been going on for the past months or so.

The prosecution says Selete, Nthabane, Tikoe, and Leong acted in concert as they intentionally and unlawfully abused the functions of their offices by authorising an advance payment of M14 million to a joint-venture building the Mpilo Boulevard.

An advance payment guarantee is a commitment issued by a bank to pay a specified amount to one party of a contract on-demand as protection against the risk of the other party’s non-performance.

The prosecution says the payment was processed after the company had provided a dubious advance payment guarantee. It says the officials knew that the guarantee was fake and therefore unenforceable.

As revealed by thepost three weeks ago, SCIG and SMCG were responsible for providing the payment guarantee as lead partners in the joint venture.

The prosecution says the MCC was required by law to make advance payment after SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture submitted a guarantee as per the international standards on construction contracts.

It alleges that the MCC has now lost the M14 million paid to SCIG-SMCG-TIM Joint Venture because of the fake advanced guarantee.

thepost has seen minutes of meetings in which officials from the joint venture admitted to MCC officers that the advance payment guarantee was dubious.

SCIG-SMCG-TIM kept promising to provide a genuine guarantee but never did. Yet the MCC officials did not report the suspected fraud to the police or take any action against the company.

It was only in January this year that the MCC cancelled the contract on the basis that the company had failed to provide a genuine guarantee.

Despite receiving the advance payment SCIG and SMCG refused to pay TIM Joint Venture for the initial work.

SCIG and SMCG, the lead partners in the joint venture, are reportedly suing the MCC to restore the contract. Officials from TIM Plant Hire however say they are not aware of their partners’ lawsuit against the MCC.

Staff Reporter

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Scott fights for free lawyer

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DOUBLE-MURDER convict Lehlohonolo Scott is fighting the government to pay a lawyer to represent him in his appeal.
Scott, serving two life sentences for murdering Kamohelo Mohata and Moholobela Seetsa in 2012, says his efforts to get a state-sponsored lawyer have been repeatedly frustrated by the Registrar of the High Court, Advocate ’Mathato Sekoai.
He wants to appeal both conviction and sentence.
He has now filed an application in the High Court seeking an order to compel Advocate Sekoai to appoint a lawyer to represent him.
He tells the court that he is representing himself in that application because the Registrar has rejected his request to pay his legal fees or appoint a lawyer for him.
People who cannot fund their own legal costs can apply to the Registrar for what is called pro deo, legal representation paid for by the state.
Scott says Sekoai has told him to approach Legal Aid for assistance.
The Legal Aid office took a year to respond to him, verbally through correctional officers, saying it does not communicate directly with inmates.
The Legal Aid also said he doesn’t qualify to be their client.
“I was informed that one Mrs Papali, if I recall the name well, who is the Chief Legal Aid counsel, had said that Legal Aid does not communicate with inmates so she could not write back to me,” Scott says.
“Secondly, they represent people in minor cases. Thirdly, they represent indigent people of which she suggested I am not one of them.”
“Fourthly, there are no prospects of success in my case hence they won’t assist me.”
He says the Legal Aid’s fifth reason was that he has been in jail for a long time.
Scott is asking the High Court to set aside Sekoai’s decision and order her to facilitate pro deo services for him, saying her decision was “irregular, irrational, and unlawful”.
He argues that the Registrar’s role was to finance his case to finality, meaning up to the Court of Appeal.
The Registrar insists that the arrangement was to provide him a lawyer until his High Court trial ended.
Scott says his lawyer, Advocate Thulo Hoeane, who was paid by the state, had promised to file an appeal a day after his sentencing but he did not.
He argues that the Registrar did not hear him but arbitrarily decided to end pro deo.
Scott says he wrote to Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase in 2018 soon after his conviction and sentencing seeking assistance but he never received any response.
Later, he wrote to Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane in November 2020 and he received a response through Sekoai who rejected his request.
Scott tells the High Court that he managed to apply to the Court of Appeal on his own but the Registrar later told him, through correctional officers, that “the Court of Appeal does not permit ordinary people to approach it”.
He argues that “where justice or other public interest considerations demand, the courts have always departed from the rules without any problem”.
Staff Reporter

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Army ordered to pay up

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THE Ombudsman has asked parliament to intervene to force the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to compensate families of people killed by soldiers.
Advocate Tlotliso Polaki told parliament, in two damning reports on Monday, that the LDF is refusing to compensate the family of Lisebo Tang who was shot dead by soldiers near the former commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s home in 2014.

The LDF, she said, is also refusing to compensate the family of Molapo Molapo who was killed by a group of soldiers at his home in Peka, Ha-Leburu in 2022.

Advocate Polaki wrote the LDF in January last year saying it should pay Tang’s mother, Makhola Tang, M300 000 “as a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

The Tang family claim investigation started in February 2022 and the LDF responded that it “had undertaken the responsibility for funeral expenses and other related costs”.

Advocate Polaki investigated whether the LDF could be held accountable for Tang’s death and whether his family should be compensated while the criminal case is pending.

She found that the soldiers were “acting within the scope of their employment to protect the army commander and his family” when they killed Tang.

Soldiers killed Tang in Lithabaneng while she was in a parked car with her boyfriend at what the army termed “a compromising spot” near the commander’s residence.

The three soldiers peppered the vehicle with a volley of shots, killing Tang and wounding the boyfriend.

Advocate Polaki found that the army arranged to pay for the funeral costs and to continue buying groceries and school needs for Tang’s daughter.

The LDF, however, kept this for only four years but abruptly stopped.

When asked why it stopped, the army said “there is a criminal case pending in court”.

The army also said it felt that it would be admitting guilt if it compensated the Tang’s family.

The Ombudsman said “a civil claim for pecuniary compensation lodged is not dependent on the criminal proceedings running at the same time”.

“The LDF created a legitimate but unreasonable expectation and commitments between themselves and the complainant which had no duration attached thereto and which showed a willingness to cooperate and work harmoniously together,” Advocate Polaki found.

“The LDF was correct in withdrawing such benefit in the absence of a clear policy guideline or order to continue to offer such benefit or advantage,” she said.

“However, she should have been consulted first as the decision was prejudicial to her interest.”

She said the army’s undertaking “fell short of a critical element of duration and reasonability”.

Tang was a breadwinner working at Pick ’n Pay Supermarket as a cleaner earning M2 000 a month.

Her daughter, the Ombudsman said, is now in grade six and her school fees alone had escalated to M3 200 per year.

She said an appropriate redress should be premised on her family’s loss of income and future loss of support based on her salary and the prejudice suffered by her mother and daughter.

She said M300 000 is “a reasonable and justifiable redress for loss of support”.

In Molapo’s case, Advocate Polaki told parliament that the LDF refused to implement her recommendations to compensate his two daughters.

The complainant is his father, Thabo Joel Molapo.

The Ombudsman told the army in August last year that it should pay the girls M423 805 “for the negligent death of their father”.

Advocate Polaki said despite that the criminal matter is before the court, “it is established that the Ombudsman can assert her jurisdiction and make determinations on the complaint”.

Molapo, 32, was brutally murdered by a soldier in Peka in December 2020.

Molapo had earlier fought with the soldier and disarmed him.

The soldier, the Ombudsman found, rushed to Mokota-koti army post to request backup to recover his rifle. When he returned with his colleagues, they found him hiding in his house. The soldier then shot Molapo.

The LDF, the Ombudsman said, conceded that the soldier killed Molapo while on duty and that he had been subjected to internal disciplinary processes.

“The LDF is bound by the consequences of the officer’s actions who was negligent and caused Molapo’s death,” she said.

She found that after Molapo was killed, army officers and the Minister of Defence visited his family and pledged to pay his children’s school fees. They also promised to hire one of his relatives who would “cater for the needs of the deceased’s children going forward”.

The LDF, she said, has now reneged on its promises saying its “recruitment policy and legal considerations did not allow for such decision to be implemented”.

Molapo’s father told the Ombudsman that the LDF said “the undertakings were not implementable and were made by the minister at the time just to console the family”.

All the payments in the two cases, the Ombudsman has asked parliament, should be made within three months.

Staff Reporter

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