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Law Society under fire

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Leaba Thetsane, has accused the Law Society of Lesotho’s leadership of behaving like ‘student activists’.

Thetsane’s scathing attack comes barely a week after the Court of Appeal quashed the  society’s attempt to have him stripped of his King’s Counsel title he was awarded in July last year.

It is also the first time that Thetsane has publicly responded to the saga.

The law society filed an application in the High Court seeking an order to strip Thetsane of the title saying he did not deserve it. The society said Thetsane did not deserve the title awarded to him by King Letsie III because there is no evidence that he had a certificate issued by the High Court registrar to allow him to practise as a lawyer.

It also said Thetsane did not render outstanding contribution to the legal fraternity to deserve the title.

Thetsane, the society said, was relying heavily on instructing foreign lawyers to deal with complicated criminal cases instead of taking the cases himself as the chief government lawyer.

When the High Court threw out the application the law society approached the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision last Friday.

A jubilant Thetsane told a press conference on Tuesday the law society was now being run like a students’ representative committee (SRC).

This is the first time Thetsane has spoken out since the fiasco started last year.

He said the law society was “adopting a populist approach to the detriment of dialogue”.

“These days the law society seems to have adopted a confrontational approach to dialogue”.

The law society was behaving like a political party, he said.

“They ought to have sent a delegation to me so that I might give side of my story,” Thetsane said.

He lambasted the society for questioning Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla’s decision to recommend conferment of the King’s Counsel title to lawyers.

“The Honourable Chief Justice was not bound by any law to ask their opinion but it was only a matter of courtesy that he wrote them before making the recommendations,” he said.

 “Why has our current law society adopted this attitude?”

Thetsane put the bulk of the blame on the Law Society’s president Zwelakhe Mda although in his attacks he opted to use his title instead of the name.

Thetsane said between 2003 and 2004 the Law Society also objected when the then Attorney-General, Lebohang Maema, was awarded the King’s Counsel title.

“I remember that I confronted the president (Mda) by telephone and told him that Mr Maema was already a King’s Counsel by virtue of being the Attorney-General,” Thetsane said.

“If their objection was genuine, they should have objected when he was appointed the Attorney-General.”

Thetsane said the law society’s decision to fight conferment of King’s Counsel title on him sprang from his move to charge a Roman Catholic priest for contempt of all High Court judges.

“I briefed a local lawyer, Advocate Hopolang Nathane, to prosecute the priest and the accused person’s lawyer was Mr Haae Phoofolo,” Thetsane said.

“The law society approached them and told them to boycott the judge who was going to hear the case, Justice Peter Cullinan AJ, threatening them with disciplinary action.”

He said Nathane told the society’s delegation that he would not listen to them because he was under the instructions of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Likewise, Phoofolo refused to listen to the society.

He said it was then that his battle with the law society started.

 “This law society is oblivious of the core issues of the profession,” he said.

“It goes for politically sensational issues.” 

Thetsane also strongly refuted suggestions that he was not admitted as an advocate.

“In those days when you were to be admitted as an advocate you moved an application and served the registrar of the High Court and law society,” he said.

“Perhaps the weakness was that you were not immediately given the certificate reflecting that you had been admitted as an advocate.”

Mda could not be reached for comment as his mobile went unanswered.

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