MASERU — High Court judge ’Maseforo Mahase on Monday withdrew from a civil case in which Police Commissioner ’Malejaka Letooane is facing trial for allegedly awarding a tender to a disqualified supplier.
Letooane, together with Home Affairs principal secretary, Lefa Mokotjo, are facing trial for allegedly corruptly awarding a tender to supply police uniforms to a United States-based company, Ferrini USA Inc.
The applicants allege the US-based company that was awarded the tender in 2008 did not meet the tender requirements.
Two local firms, Smally Trading Company and Noko Enterprises, filed an application in the High Court seeking an order to review and set aside the decision to award the tender to the firm.
The two companies argue that it was unfair to award the tender to Ferrini USA Inc because it did not meet the tender requirements.
The firms also want the High Court to declare that the home affairs ministry was not entitled to enter any agreement with Ferrini USA Inc.
Letooane was supposed to appear before Justice Mahase on Monday.
But lawyers from the Law Office who were representing the police commissioner sought to have the matter heard in chambers.
The lawyers allegedly told the judge that the police commissioner was not comfortable with her presiding over the case.
An applicant in the case, Leonia Mosothoane, told the Lesotho Times that her lawyer, Qhalehang Letsika, had told her that Letooane’s lawyers requested Justice Mahase’s recusal from the case because she felt that the judge would be biased in handling the case.
“My lawyer said the commissioner’s lawyers told Judge Mahase in her chambers that she should withdraw from the case because of previous events that had taken place between the two.
“He said they mentioned events when Mahase ordered that the commissioner should be sent to prison for contempt of court.
“They are also said to have mentioned an event where the commissioner ordered the police to raid the judge’s house,” Mosothoane said.
In 2007, Letooane ordered the police to raid Justice Mahase’s house in search of illegal weapons.
Mahase’s husband, Thabiso, was accused of taking part in attacks at the homes of government ministers during the political disturbances that rocked the entire country in June 2007.
But in a sharp twist to the spat, Justice Mahase last year confirmed a magistrate’s court order that Letooane should be jailed for contempt of court after she failed to appear before Magistrate Tseliso Bale.
Letooane failed to appear before the magistrate to give evidence in a case involving the theft of a motor vehicle.
The police boss was accused of releasing an impounded car to another person while the case was still pending in the courts.
Letooane declined to appear before the court and Bale sentenced her to prison for contempt of court.
Confirming Bale’s order, Justice Mahase said no one was above the law adding that Letooane had ordered the raid at her house on the same understanding that although she was a judge she was not above the law.
The managing director for Smally Trading Company, Leonia Mosothoane, told the High Court in her founding affidavit that what Mokotjo and Letooane did reflected “a tragic saga and cancer of corruption that I have never seen before”.
“It becomes intriguing and manifestly abhorrable because it has been committed by police officers — the very people we the citizenry look upon when criminal offences are committed against us,” Mosothoane said.
Mosothoane told the court in her affidavit that Ferrini USA Inc was disqualified on the basis that it did not meet the mandatory formal requirements such as having a tax clearance certificate and operating licence.
Mosothoane said the US firm did not even provide samples to show how it would comply with the technical specifications.
Mandatory formal requirements stated in the tender notice were that suppliers were expected to establish their compliance with their tax obligations by attaching certified copies of tax clearance certificates.
During the opening of tender documents which took place on July 23 2008, bidders were also checked if they were licensed traders.
They were also checked against the samples of the uniforms they had brought.
Ferrini USA Inc had brought none of the above and was duly disqualified.