The Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) spokesperson, Bokang Ramatšella, who is facing sedition charges, is expected to apply for bail in the High Court today.
This comes after his initial request was turned down by the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on Friday last week, and advised to apply for bail at the High Court due to the nature of the charge.
Mr Ramatšella first appeared before Magistrate Masupha Kao on Thursday last week charged with making subversive statements on a local radio station, Thaha-Khube (TK) FM.
He had been arrested two days before and kept in police custody until his court appearance.
Yesterday, Mr Ramatšella’s lawyer, Advocate Setlojoane Setlojoane told the Lesotho Times that his client would apply for bail today “possibly around midday.”
According to the charge sheet, Mr Ramatšella, “on 20 August 2014, allegedly made seditious statements while on air at Thaha-Khube (TK) FM, by uttering the following statement: The people who represented Lesotho at the (2014) SADC (Southern African Development Community heads of state and government ) summit are insane”.
Mr Ramatšella, the charge sheet further notes, “contravened Section 76, Sub-Section Two (b) read with (d), of the Penal Code Act No. 6 of 2010,” by making the statement.
However, following heated arguments between Mr Ramatšella’s lawyer, Salemane Phafane (King’s Counsel) and prosecutor Lehlohonolo Phooko, Magistrate Kao on Thursday last week adjourned the court session pending his ruling the following day.
Advocate Phafane had however, argued the offence his client was being accused of was not subversive at all.
The state, Advocate Phafane stressed, was “desperate” to see Mr Ramatšella denied bail, “hence the reason why the prosecution chose to charge my client with sedition.
“The state did so knowing that the crime of sedition, and the same goes with murder and treason, is not bailable before the magistrate’s court,” he said.
Advocate Phafane went on to argue if the prosecution was certain Mr Ramatšella committed a seditious offense, “they should have picked Section 76, Subsection One, which directly prescribes how the crime of sedition is committed.”
He added: “But they avoided that section due to their uncertainty and chose a wrong subsection which only relates to a statutory offence, not sedition. Mere words that ‘people who represented Lesotho in the SADC meeting are insane,’ that are alleged to have been uttered by my client, are not seditious. It is a democratic right for any citizen to tell his or her leader that ‘I voted you into power, but you are now insane.’ That is not sedition.”
Advocate Phafane further warned the court to refrain from being “a rubber-stamp” of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“With respect, your worship, I submit that this honourable court should not allow its reputation to be brought into disrepute by acting as a rubber-stamp of the DPP.
“What I mean is that this court should make its own assessment carefully, whether it is correct for my client to be charged with sedition while there are no facts to prove it,” he said.
When passing his ruling, Magistrate Kao dismissed Advocate Phafane’s arguments, maintaining the court, based on the charge Mr Ramatšella faced, had no jurisdiction to grant him the bail.
“This court is not a rubber-stamp for the DPP like Mr Phafane suggests,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Advocate Phafane told the Lesotho Times shortly after last Friday’s court session that he was ready to file an urgent application for bail in the High Court for the release of his client.
However, the courts indefinitely suspended their operations on Monday due to the political unrest in the country, and only opened for business yesterday.