Blow for Ntsekele as court postpones hearing

  • decision opens the door for his arrest

Mohalenyane Phakela

WATER Minister Samonyane Ntsekele has been dealt a severe blow in his bid to avoid arrest and prosecution in connection with the June 2017 murder of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife, Lipolelo.

This after it was decided that his Constitutional Court application to stop the police from arresting and charging him over that issue can only be heard after the national lockdown expected to end on 21 April 2020.

But more ominously for Mr Ntsekele, the courts did not issue an interim order to stop the police from acting against him in the meantime.  This means they can still proceed to arrest and charge him if they so wish.

Deputy police commissioner Paseka Mokete said the police would proceed with their action against Mr Ntsekele though he did not say when.

Mr Ntsekele’s application was scheduled to be heard on Monday. However, the Assistant Registrar of the High Court, Starford Sharite, told the Lesotho Times that the court had resolved to hear the matter after the lockdown, declared by the government as part of efforts to curb the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Mr Ntsekele’s lawyer, Qhalehang Letsika, and the police lawyer, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, were present at court on Monday. They were ready to proceed with the matter but it was agreed by all parties that the matter will be heard after the lockdown,” Adv Sharite said.

“This matter has been postponed like that of Messrs (Mothetjoa) Metsing and (Selibe) Mochoboroane which was also set for Monday but had to be postponed due to the lockdown.”

Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane have filed an application to stop the state from trying them for treason against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. The charges arise from their alleged roles in the August 2014 attempted coup.

Regarding Mr Ntsekele’s application, the police’s lawyer Adv Maqakachane said in the absence of an interim order barring them from acting, the police could go ahead with the interrogation of the minister.

“There was no court order issued on Monday barring the police from calling Mr Ntsekele therefore they can continue with their plans to call him in,” Adv Maqakachane said.

Deputy police commissioner Paseka Mokete said they would now proceed and do exactly that.  He however denied claims by Mr Ntsekele that the police had told him they intended to charge him in connection with the murder of Lipolelo. Mr Mokete said they had only told the minister to report to the police over the murder.

“I am working with my team to call in Mr Ntsekele again. As is the case with everyone else who we have called in, there are certain issues we need him to clarify. I was shocked by the claims and his rush to court saying we intend to charge him with the murder (of Lipolelo). When I called him, I did not disclose why we wanted to see him,” DCP Mokete told the Lesotho Times this week.

Mr Mokete is however on record saying high-profile people including ministers and other government officials would soon be arrested and charged with the murder. He has nevertheless steadfastly shied away from revealing their identities until they are in fact formally charged.

In his application filed last Friday, Mr Ntsekele states that he learnt of the police’s intentions to charge him in connection with the Lipolelo murder through his extensive interactions with DCP Mokete.

He bizarrely claims in his papers that he cannot be charged with any crime as long as he remains in office as minister and member of parliament.  He thus wants the court to declare the police’s intentions to criminally prosecute him null and void.

Even though the police had disclosed their intentions to charge him over the Lipolelo killing, Mr Ntsekele said they did not specify what the charges would be.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Constitutional Court will grant Mr Ntsekele’s application especially in light of the fact that another minister, Mahali Phamotse, was recently charged with corruption arising from a 2015 high schools textbooks tender awarded while she was still Education and Training minister.  Nowhere in the constitution does it say that a cabinet minister cannot be charged with any crimes while in office.

Should his application fail and he is charged, Mr Ntsekele will join Dr Thabane, First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane, prominent famo musician and All Basotho Convention (ABC) activist Mosotho Chakela (real name Rethabile Mokete) among high profile personalities in the dock over the murder which occurred just two days before Dr Thabane was inaugurated for his second stint as premier.

Dr Thabane has since petitioned the Constitutional Court to have the charges dropped on the grounds that he should not be tried for any crime while he remains in office as prime minister.

Mosotho Chakela remains at large and has not appeared in court yet, alongside other suspects Seabata Sello, Molefi Matima and Macheli Koeshe.

The police have since declared all four fugitives from justice and issued notices for public help to arrest them.

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