I will not flee prosecution: Mochoboroane

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. . . accuses state of fabricating cases and hiring “mercenary judges” to sink him and Metsing

Bongiwe Zihlangu

MOVEMENT for Economic Change (MEC) leader, Selibe Mochoboroane, says unlike his co-accused politician, Mothetjoa Metsing, he will not flee the country to avoid facing justice.

Rather than absconding, Mr Mochoboroane says he will go through all court procedures no matter how “polarised and corrupt” he thinks Lesotho judges are.

“I must walk through the same fire that my followers are constantly subjected to in our courts,” said Mr Mochoboroane in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

Messrs Mochoboroane and Metsing are facing treason charges for their alleged involvement in the failed 30 August 2014 coup that caused the death of Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko. Soldiers under the leadership of former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, had gone on the rampage raiding police stations and causing then prime minister Thomas Thabane to flee to South Africa.

At the time, Mr Mochoboroane, who was the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) secretary-general and Communications, Science and Technology minister, allegedly ordered the shutdown of local radio stations for the duration of the attempted coup.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) had in 2018 brokered a government-opposition agreement that Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane would not be prosecuted for any crimes at least until after the country had implemented the multi-sector reforms recommended by the regional body.

But the agreement was rejected by the courts because it was not incorporated into the country’s municipal law.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, subsequently joined the two prominent politicians to the treason case of Kamoli and others.

Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane were to be formally charged on 6 December 2021 alongside Kamoli, Captain Liketanyo Nyakane and lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.

DPP Motinyane had amended their charge sheet in February 2020 to include treason, attempted murder and aggravated assault, among other charges.

But Mr Metsing then skipped the country a day before he was scheduled to appear before court alongside Mr Mochoboroane.

However, Mr Mochoboroane said he would never follow suit and skip the country to avoid going to court even though he was convinced that Lesotho courts were highly polarised.

In fact, he believes that the case for which he and Mr Metsing have been dragged to court is “cooked up” and DPP Motinyane is so determined to sink them so much that she has “sought the services of mercenary judges” to ensure they land in jail.

Mr Mochoboroane also draws a distinction between him and his fellow co-accused politician, Mr Metsing. While the LCD leader fled from the same charges that he is facing, Mr Mochoboroane vowed; “I would rather have anything happen to me here in Lesotho than any other place”.

Mr Mochoboroane accused the DPP of employing what he described as underhanded tactics in engaging foreign judges to preside over his and Mr Metsing’s case.

“Well, much as we were facing similar charges, at the end of the day we are individuals in our own right. Ntate Metsing has his own way of looking at issues and I have mine. I have been very clear from the onset if anything at all should happen to me, it must be here in Lesotho. It must be here, at home. I meant what I said and stick by my words to date,” Mr Mochoboroane said.

“The general opinion is that our courts have been polarised by party politics. However, as political party leaders our followers are Basotho who are subjected to proceedings and judgments by the same courts that form part of a polarised judicial system.”

To drive his point home, the MEC leader used the 2019 infighting in the All Basotho Convention (ABC) sparked by Mr Thabane’s rejection of his then deputy-leader Nqosa Mahao. The court cases that ensued, Mr Mochoboroane said, made it apparent that the Lesotho judiciary had been captured by politicians who influenced judgments.

“Thabane’s faction was assured that the High Court under the former Acting Chief Justice, ‘Maseforo Mahase, would always rule in their favour, while Prof Nqosa Mahao’s clique knew it could rely on Court of Appeal President Kananelo Mosito ruling in its favour or overturning the lower court’s judgments.

“That on its own tells you there’s no doubt that our courts are compromised by party politics. That is bound to affect everyone. Look, the people I lead approach the same courts for legal recourse, they get burnt in the process. I must walk through the same fire that my supporters are subjected to daily, to get a feel of it so that I push to change what I know.”

And now there was discord between the DPP and local judges who are opposed to the hiring of foreign judges.

“Take for instance the brouhaha going on between the courts and the office of the DPP, the unwarranted back and forth on the cases being presided over by foreign judges. You can see that it is because the DPP was able to lobby the foreign judges to act in a certain way, whereas they failed to do the same with our local judges. I guess our local judges would not allow themselves to be used because they are jealously protecting their careers and reputations.

“The manner in which things are playing out now tells you that the office of the DPP only managed to lobby foreign judges but surely hit a brick-wall when it came to our local judges.”

Even the recruitment of the foreign judges, he said, was conducted clandestinely.

“There are people who were assigned specifically to fetch those judges from wherever in the world they were. Nevertheless, I will subject myself to the same justice system as a political party leader and for the sake of my supporters.

“I harbour the ambition of becoming Lesotho’s prime minister one day, and for that to happen, I must subject myself to certain situations with grace as a demonstration that I have the capacity to hold a higher office. How do my supporters, who are being subjected to a suspicious legal system, trust me to lead them if I refuse to walk a mile in their shoes? That’s my argument as a leader.”

Efforts to get a comment from Mr Metsing were fruitless this week.

However, LCD deputy leader, Tšliso Mokhosi, said the LCD’s stance has always been that the Clause 10 agreement should be respected. He said Mr Metsing left because “he was being victimised by his detractors” because “his presence in the political space intimidated his detractors because they know that he is an intelligent politician with content”.

“As LCD, we stick to our stance that agreements should be respected. Clause 10 was signed at SADC level and as such, should be respected.

“Metsing is being victimised because of his political prowess and stature. He intimidates his political counterparts who seem comfortable when he is not around. They can rejoice all they want for now. But they must know that LCD is going to shock them at the polls,” Mr Mokhosi said.

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