LESOTHO Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing has criticised the “politically motivated move” to oust Court of Appeal president Justice Kananelo Mosito. Mr Metsing said although his party had opposed Justice Mosito’s re-appointment, the top judge did not deserve to be victimised on political grounds. He said if the apex court president were to go, he should also be followed through the exit door by Acting Chief Justice ’Maseforo Mahase because the duo were “improperly” appointed to their posts in the first place.
The former deputy premier said this while addressing an LCD rally in Thetsane, Maseru, this week.
He used the occasion to dispel widespread rumours that he had inked a deal to save Prime Minister Thomas Thabane from a looming no confidence vote and thereafter establish a new governing coalition with the embattled All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader.
Mr Metsing said while his party had always held that Justice Mosito was “unprocedurally” re-appointed to the apex court on 1 August 2017, this did not justify his sacking for political reasons. He said should Dr Thabane proceed to remove Justice Mosito, he should also sack Justice Mahase as she was also “unprocedurally” appointed in place of Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara whose September 2018 suspension for alleged misconduct at the instigation of the premier was bitterly opposed by the LCD.
“Things are not orderly at all in Lesotho and this government does not have a right to fire Justice Mosito for political reasons,” Mr Metsing said, adding, “it should be understood that we are not suddenly saying he (Justice Mosito) is right but we are saying people should not be allowed to abuse their power just to fire him”.
Justice Mosito faces the axe after Dr Thabane on 5 July 2019 slapped him with a letter demanding that he “shows cause” why he should not be suspended for alleged misconduct. In his ‘show cause’ letter, the premier accuses Justice Mosito of interfering with the administrative functions of Justice Mahase after the apex court entertained appeals in two cases that were in relation to the ongoing power struggle in Dr Thabane’s ABC. (See story on page 10).
The suspension, which will pave way for an investigation into his suitability or lack of it to hold office, comes less than a year after Dr Thabane recommended his re-appointment to the apex court. He resigned from the same post in December 2016 after the then premier Pakalitha Mosisili moved to impeach him for alleged tax evasion. He was, however, later cleared of the charges.
In the latest development, Justice Mosito has been given seven days to respond to the Dr Thabane’s ‘show cause’ letter which is dated 5 July 2019.
Mr Metsing, who was deputy prime minister in the previous government that pushed out Justice Mosito, said the apex court president was a victim of the current polarisation in the judiciary which he said had resulted in judges taking sides in political disputes. He said this polarisation, along with Justices Mosito and Mahase’s “unprocedural” appointments, went to the core of the rot in the judiciary and necessitated urgent reforms.
“If government sees the need to sack Justice Mosito today then so be it but they should also sack Justice Mahase. We have always held that Justice Mosito was not procedurally appointed and the same goes for Justice Mahase.
“We are not going to be a part of this. Our (former) government set up a tribunal to impeach Justice Mosito because we said he didn’t file his tax returns and therefore he could not be appointed to that high post.
“We maintain that the judiciary is moribund. There is rot in the judiciary as judges have taken sides with politicians hence the need for the judiciary to be overhauled. We need a strong and independent judiciary. Lesotho needs strong institutions which cannot be corrupted by politicians.”
He reiterated his call for a government of national unity and a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), saying these were needed to achieve peace and stability in Lesotho. He also renewed his call for the release of serving and former members of the security agencies whom he alleges to be political prisoners. Although he did not mention names, he has previously said the likes of detained murder and attempted murder-accused former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli are political prisoners.
“To date there are some police and army officers who are in detention who ought to be serving in the security institutions and there are those who are still in service though they ought to be in jail. These are the kind of situations that call for a TRC. There is selective justice in this country.
“It is quite surprising that to date there are people who still think that they can govern on their own even after all the things that we have been through as a country. People must have learnt by now that no party shall ever constitute a government on its own and we need a GNU.
“We need each other to change this country. The Democratic Congress needs us and we also need them hence there is need to work out our differences and look at the bigger picture to benefit the nation.”
He said so many falsehoods had been peddled about his intentions of joining forces with Dr Thabane.
“We don’t have a special arrangement to work with any of the two ABC factions. But the LCD is willing to work with whoever understands that there is need for a GNU.
“It is a well-known fact that I have had my share of differences with the ABC but this is not about me, it is about the masses and this country’s development.”
He said a GNU was a better prospect. Going for elections would be more disastrous for the ABC due to the infighting.
“Going for elections now is even more dangerous and risky for the ABC than any other party as they can’t even agree on who their leader is. Should elections be called they won’t even be able to agree on the candidates to field in the constituencies and the country shall go to the polls under unstable and tense conditions. Others will even refuse to accept the results.
“We are not opposed to the no confidence motion per se but we are concerned about the cost implications that will come with elections. We just want something (a GNU) that will bring peace and stability to this country,” Mr Metsing said.