MASERU — Police Commissioner ‘Malejaka Letooane’s bid to avoid jail collapsed on Tuesday when her bail application was thrown out at the Maseru Magistrates’ Court.
Letooane has for the past three weeks been battling to avoid going to jail after she was sentenced to six months in prison on August 18 for contempt of court.
The commissioner was this week forced to apply for bail to Ts’eliso Bale, the same magistrate who slapped her with the jail term for failing to comply with court orders.
Through her lawyer, Kananelo Mosito, Letooane was seeking bail pending appeal against her conviction and sentence.
But Bale threw out the bail application, dashing Letooane’s hopes of avoiding doing time.
Bale said he did not see any prospects of Letooane’s appeal succeeding.
“I have therefore come to the conclusion that there are no prospects of success,” Bale said.
“There has also not been any substantial effort even to purge.
“Lastly, bail applied for when the said appellant (Letooane) is at large is an impossibility.
“The application for bail pending appeal therefore fails despite the prosecution having indicated their non-objection.”
The rejection of bail has left Letooane in a corner.
This week has been particularly dramatic in the case which analysts say is likely to test the independence and tenacity of the judiciary in Lesotho.
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In the High Court on Monday, Advocate Haaea Phoofolo fiercely opposed Letooane’s application for a stay of execution before Justice Seemapo Peete.
Phoofolo is representing Majake Ramoroke, the man who is alleged to have stolen a car that Letooane is alleged to have released from police custody and sparked the current issue when she failed to appear in court.
Phoofolo argued that the stay of execution initially granted by Justice Peete should not stand because the proceedings were unprocedural.
He said it was unprocedural for Letooane to seek a stay of execution in a criminal conviction, adding that her only option was to apply for bail pending appeal.
Crown lawyers who all along had been representing Letooane then officially announced their withdrawal from the proceedings, leaving the commissioner to be represented by her own lawyer, Mosito.
That meant the whole proceedings by the state had to be withdrawn and Letooane had to defend herself afresh.
Justice Peete then said the new application should not be heard by him.
After lunch on Monday the matter was before a new judge, Justice Maseforo Mahase, and Mosito was trying to explain what the application was all about.
But that did not impress Justice Mahase who wanted to know where Letooane was.
“Where is the applicant?” Justice Mahase asked.
Mosito did not answer and that seemed to anger Justice Mahase.
“Where is the certificate of urgency? Why am I being asked to deal with it?” the judge asked.
“I can’t listen to you. Judge Peete’s handwriting is ineligible if it is not typed. I am not able to hear you; it is in his short-hand.”
Mosito responded that he understood the matter was not going to be opposed and therefore the rule of urgency had been inadvertently omitted.
But Mosito’s response did not impress the judge.
“Mr Mosito I am sorry to say what I have to say — too many strange things have happened (in this case),” Justice Mahase said.
“Where is the applicant?
“If she is on bail and has that application been granted by the court that convicted her?”
“A whole commissioner of police is convicted . . . she has been convicted by a proper court.
“For her to avoid going to prison, she should have paid a fine.
“The commissioner has been convicted by a competent court of law and the orders of the court must be obeyed unless changed by a higher court in the ordinary procedure of appeal.
“I do not know why she is not in prison. Why are such things happening?
“When I was searched unlawfully (during the 2007 political disturbances) I was told that nobody in this country is above the law.
“The accused’s lawyers must go to the same court that convicted her and apply for bail pending appeal.”
Justice Mahase then said she was recusing herself from the matter.
Phoofolo told the Lesotho Times that according to procedure Letooane should be in prison now.
“I don’t understand why they were applying for bail when the convicted is in not in jail,” Phoofolo said.
“The whole reason of applying for bail is to secure freedom while appeal is pending.
“I think it’s a matter of someone not wanting to obey the law.”
Asked why the police had not acted on the order to imprison Letooane, police spokesperson Pheello Mphana said he could not comment because the matter was still before the courts.
“I do not want to comment about it because it is a matter that is still before the courts,” Mphana said.
But legal observers say this matter is not entirely a police matter because Bale’s order said the order to arrest must be executed by the military police.