FORMER Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) CEO, ‘Mamarame Matela has accused a recently appointed judge of lying under oath.
Advocate Matela made the allegations at a hastily arranged press conference shortly after the hearing of her recusal application against Justice Tšeliso Mokoko on Tuesday.
Adv Matela wants Judge Mokoko to recuse himself from presiding over a case between her and the LCA. Justice Mokoko is the presiding judge in the LCA’s application for an order compelling Ms Matela to return the authority’s assets which she has allegedly held on to despite the expiry of her contract on 31 March 2022.
However, Adv Matela wants him to recuse himself on account of what she says are “pre-existing personal and professional relationships” between her and the judge.
Explaining these alleged pre-existing relationships, Adv Matela said she had even been to the judge’s house on previous occasions when the latter’s children were celebrating their birthdays.
Adv Matela also said the fact that Justice Mokoro’s wife used to work for Vodacom Lesotho in August 2019 when the mobile communications company was fined M8, 2 million for its failure to pay regulatory fees was reason enough to believe that the judge might be biased against her since she was LCA boss at the time.
However, Judge Mokoko denied Adv Matela’s claims that she had ever been to her house.
“In your affidavit you have claimed that you have been to my house to attend my daughter’s birthday and that is not true,” Justice Mokoko said.
“There has never been a time that you have set foot at my house in Ha Matala. In all these years my children’s birthday parties have been at (the now closed) Spur (restaurant which used to be at Pioneer Mall),” Justice Mokoko said.
The judge denied that Adv Matela’s sister, whose name was not given, had also been to his place.
Justice Mokoko also said the fact that his wife used to work for Vodacom had nothing with him and how he performed his job as a judge.
“I put it to you that your sister has never been to my house. Also, it is a matter of a common cause that my wife worked at Vodacom when LCA fined Vodacom. But what has my wife’s work at Vodacom got to do with me? How is that connected with me presiding over this case?”
However, Adv Matela insisted that she had attended a party at Justice Mokoko’s house with her sister.
“I have attended a little girl’s party with my sister at your home,” she said.
“It is my fear, reasonable fear that when your wife was coming back stressed from work she would confide in you as your spouse. I am afraid that you might not be partial in hearing this matter given that at one point the company I was working for fined Vodacom M8, 2 million for a negligence caused by your wife in the position she was holding,” Adv Matela argued.
She insisted that she had been to the judge’s house on several occasions.
But this was denied by the judge who said her fears that he could be biased against her were unfounded.
“Did you know whether my wife came home frustrated? Did you know whether she was a senior manager or executive officer at Vodacom? All your arguments are based on allegations. She left Vodacom to (Lesotho Revenue Authority) LRA because she got a better offer of a senior executive officer while at Vodacom she was just a manager,” Justice Mokoko said.
LCA lawyer, Qhalehang Letsika, weighed in the issue, argued that the fact that Justice Mokoko’s wife had worked for Vodacom could not disqualify the judge from presiding over the LCA application against Adv Matela.
“This point would not disqualify the court. It has no merit. (Adv) Matela does not seem to accept that when she imposed fines on Vodacom she did so in her capacity as the chief executive officer of LCA and those powers were entrusted to her by law. She seems to make LCA activities her business.
“We submit that the learned judge does not have a direct interest in the outcome of these proceedings as contended by (Adv) Matela. The outcome of this litigation would not by any chance make the learned judge disqualified. The issue for determination is simply whether or not (Adv) Matela has in her possession the assets of the LCA. It is either that or that the LCA is bluffing that she took possession of such assets,” argued Mr Letsika.
Judge Mokoko then adjourned the matter and called both Adv Matela and Mr Letsika into his chambers.
Upon their return, the judge announced that he will deliver his verdict on the recusal application on 17 June 2022.
Adv Matela, who shocked all and sundry when she was unveiled as deputy leader of the Teboho Mojapela-led Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) party in Maseru on Saturday, persisted with her claims that she had been to Justice Mokoko’s house on several occasions.
Throughout the proceedings, Justice Mokoko’s court gallery was filled with SR supporters clad in their orange and white regalia. They had come to support their newly appointed deputy leader.
Immediately after the court proceedings, the combative Adv Matela held a press conference where she accused Justice Mokoko of lying.
“The truth is that Judge Mokoko and I know each other. Several times I have been to his house with my sister but he is refusing to recuse himself from this case. I have even tried to point out that the relations we have might jeopardise this case, regardless of what the outcome may be.
“I know his place and I will not shy away from that truth because it is making him uncomfortable. He is lying, I know his place. I can give you the direction to all the rooms in there because I have been there more than once.
“Justice Mokoko is a politician who represented the All Basotho Convention (ABC) as principal secretary in the Ministry of Local government and Chieftainship Affairs between 2017 and 2018. There was an uproar over his appointment as a judge because he is a politician. I was actually trying to protect him by asking him to recuse himself from this case,” Adv Matela said.