By Sofonea Shale
The public reaction to the finality of the legal battle for Director of Public Prosecutions to remain in office until attainment of 60 years of age and the sentiments expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of LCD on stance of his party on what he termed the potential persecution of the DPP do not only raise eyebrows, but add political pepper and salt to the bruises that the DPP had already suffered.
Credibility of statutory offices and the institutions of governance is critical for the proper functioning of democracy. It is the responsibility of every leader to instil within his or her followers the sense of respect for the institutions of governance. Eroding public confidence in these institutions is the effective way of creating anarchy. This is why leaders should be stopped in all fairness from sowing seeds of bitterness among the populace on those who hold such offices. When political leaders mainly the DC and the ABC uttered statements which had effect of eroding respectability of the newly appointed IEC Commissioners, civil society organisations took up the issue. The smooth resolution of that matter had not only cleared the air but also gave Commissioners opportunity to demonstrate what may be regarded as high level of acumen in dealing with discontent on the outcome of Thaba-Phechela by-elections.
Though it would not only be unrealistic but also unfair on the media to expect it to hold expertise on every aspect of societal life, it may be prudent for the media not to be just a channel of preconceived political ideas. Although the Court of Appeal has clearly stated that the DPP will retire at the age of 60 years as s opposed to 55 years that the government envisaged, the media has decided to facilitate public discussion on the matter in the manner that advances partisan political inclinations while in the process, the critical victory of human rights defence and perhaps the ability of the courts to balance power of executive are relegated to the dogs. In what media houses termed their analysis questions posed before audience include whether the court decision has not exposed the DPP to administrative process such as transfer, removal from office of DPP to other responsibilities such as managing stores, transport or other duties in any of the Ministries of the government including those in the districts? Given the tone set, public do not get opportunity to know that the court has not amended Section 141 (4) of the Lesotho constitution which clearly stipulates that DPP may not be removed from office for any other reasons except for the inability to function, misbehaviour or any other cause. Since there is only one DPP, there is no way, a transfer can be thought without it being regarded as removal. This section further provides that should there be a reason to believe that the DPP is limited in doing his or her job, the Prime Minister or the Public Service Commission may so express intention to the King who will in turn establish a tribunal to investigate the matter. It is only if the tribunal advices the King that the DPP should be removed that it may happen. The limited media analysis does not only deny ordinary citizens opportunity to learn about and understand the constitution but also paralyses the nation along party lines not to celebrate their victories. The public reaction to this court decision has been misdirected by the media not look at the bigger picture but just follow the party political sentiments.
When the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of LCD said himself and his party will die where the DPP will fall if further persecutions are made, he did not help restore public confidence in the DPP but polarised positions even further despite the good intentions he may had. Considering that those who felt aggrieved by the DPP’s victory are mainly the ABC, such a declaration from LCD worsens the situation of the already bruised DPP. In fact this case has not only provided the constitutional interpretation of the Public Service Act in so far retirement age for the DPP is concerned. The verdict of the court means that in the similar manner that ABC or any could not remove the DPP without following Section 141(4), (6), (7), DPP does not need to be protected by LCD, DC or any political formation because the constitution itself is adequate.
Rising above the political waves on this matter, Basotho would realise that in the legal battle that has surely left political scars and bruises, there is no loser. The DPP has won and emerged stronger, the judicial justice system in this country has passed the test and won, the government has by losing and admitting DPP back to office won by submitting to law and redefining its stance towards rule of law. From the practical political point of view, the widely held view that ABC believes that DPP abuses his office to stifle its litigation programme particularly against targeted big fish, equally creates an impression on the other hand that the seeming sympathy of LCD, DC and other formations of congress orientation is a false pretence. In these dichotomous and polarised political positions over the office of DPP, the incumbent has not just been a spectator or remained grass in the kraal when two elephants were fighting he put up a heroic fight. As if the court case was between LCD and ABC, the verdict is defined along party lines as either a win or lose to one or other side.
Perhaps beyond the naivety, politicisation and sensationalism that are clouding the DPP case, what now remains is the question whether DPP will rise to the occasion and discharge his duties objectively in the otherwise volatile situation.