EU denies pressuring Majoro, DPP to prosecute Peshoane

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…bloc maintains it has “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse and other acts of misconduct

Staff Reporters

EUROPEAN Union ambassador to Lesotho, Paola Amadei, has strongly denied allegations by Transformation Resource Centre director, Tsikoane Peshoane, that she pressured the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, to charge him with sexual abuse.

Ms Amadei however, insisted that the regional bloc had a “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse and any forms of misconduct among its staff and any organisations like the TRC which implemented EU-supported projects.

Mr Peshoane stands accused of sexually abusing former TRC employees, Itumeleng Tsukuhali, Lerato Pharoe, Mapitso Moeketsi and Masenono Letsie, between January 2018 and December 2021.

The prominent human rights activist first made an appearance before Maseru Magistrate ‘Mamorojele Qoo a fortnight ago. He was supposed to have reappeared before the same magistrate yesterday but he has since launched a constitutional application to stop the charges.

A fortnight ago, Judge Fumane Khabo granted Mr Peshoane an interim order barring the Maseru Magistrates’ Court from trying him for sexual assault until the finalisation of his constitutional application to stop the charges.

In his constitutional application, Mr Peshoane argued that his case had been “irregularly” brought to the court.

Among other things, Mr Peshoane alleges that DPP Motinyane did not independently make the decision to prosecute him. He alleges that she was influenced by the EU to charge him.

“I undertake to demonstrate that the approach of the victims in seeking intervention of the international community usurped the role of the DPP and thereby crossed the constitutional boundary,” Mr Peshoane states in his Constitutional Court papers.

“The influence of the international community served to bring the charges… to fruition in a manner that is tainted with unlawful interference with the functions of the DPP.

“At the time the victims reported their frustrations to European Union, the Board of TRC had not been informed about their alleged sexual harassment. This aspect featured prominently in the letter of the Director of Public Prosecutions dated 2 June 2022. She wrote to the prime minister outlining the reservations she had in proceeding with the case before clarity is provided in isolated events which occurred in 2017 and which were not reported to the police or management of TRC.

“It is palpably absurd that the DPP had to account to the prime minister about whether I should or should not be prosecuted for sexual allegations which were shelved for five years or so. I will release the other correspondences between them in instalments to indicate that there is a danger that might not be adequately addressed if the referral of the matter in terms of section 128 of the constitution is not prioritised,” Mr Peshoane further argues.

However, his allegations were denied by Ms Amadei in two statements to the Lesotho Times and Sunday Express this week.

“The delegation of the European Union to the Kingdom of Lesotho categorically and vehemently denies the allegations made by the legal defence of Mr Tsikoane Peshoane that the EU head of delegation (Amadei) influenced his prosecution.

“The EU delegation maintains that any allegations of interference with judicial and prosecutorial proceedings on our part are unfounded and untrue. We do apply a zero tolerance policy regarding all forms of misconduct including sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment by our staff and those of organisations implementing EU-supported programmes/projects. There are internal and contractual processes followed by the EU in any case of misconduct. Such processes do not include interference in judicial or prosecutorial processes,” Ms Amadei states.

She also said she had taken note of the Lesotho Times’ satirical Scrutator column regarding Mr Peshoane and his legal team’s allegations that she was behind the TRC director’s prosecution. Nonetheless, she said she had not pressured the DPP to prosecute Mr Peshoane as the latter had alleged.

In the Scrutator article published last week, the popular columnist had criticised Mr Peshoane for his “ill-advised” decision to seek discharge on the basis of technicalities instead of standing trial to clear his name.

“I thought last week was an excellent opportunity for Ntate Peshoane to take the dock and face his accusers and clear his name if the accusations are baseless he has claimed,” the columnist wrote.

“Instead Ntate Peshoane – through his lawyer – Christopher Lephuthing, resorted to technicalities to try and avoid trial. They claimed he had been brought to court ‘frivolously’ and ‘maliciously’, whatever that means.

“What legal bunkum is that? What exactly is it with local lawyers and their love for technicalities to avoid trials…Ntate Peshoane and his legal team have alleged the letter was authored by EU ambassador to Lesotho, Amadei. They have been telling everyone who cares to listen that Ms Amadei is on a crusade to throw Ntate Peshoane into the gutter.

“If all this is true, I then fail to comprehend why Ntate Peshoane does not want to use that material in a trial court to prove his innocence. By wanting to avoid trial on the basis of the inane argument that his rights have been violated, Ntate Peshoane is cutting his own throat…

“Does he think anyone will believe he did not fondle those women if he does not address these allegations substantively in court? If I were Ntate Peshoane and if I was confident of my case, I would jettison the unhelpful Stalingrad strategy of doing everything to avoid trial, made famous by the singing, giggling, dancing, and philandering Jacob Zuma, and face my accusers,” the columnist added.

 

 

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