MAGISTRATE Itumeleng Letsika has been accused by a lawyer, Makhabane Masupha, of threatening to send him to jail along with his two murder accused clients and two other lawyers.
Advocate Masupha has filed a High Court application in which he accuses Magistrate Letsika of misconduct and threatening to jail him alongside fellow lawyers, Advocates Napo Mafaesa and Kabelo Letuka.
He alleges that Magistrate Letsika said lawyers were too forward hence they get beaten by the police just like Adv Mafaesa who was allegedly tortured by the police in January last year.
Adv Masupha is the legal representative of Nthei Rasekoai and ‘Mamphoka Rasekoai who stand accused on murdering their mother, Martha Rasekoai, in July last year.
The duo appeared before Senior Resident Magistrate Thamae Thamae on 11 January 2023 who read them the indictment and remanded them into prison.
According to Adv Masupha, his clients were hauled before Magistrate Letsika on 10 January 2023 without his knowledge. He said he was surprised to find them at the Maseru Magistrate Court in the company of Thetsane Police officers.
He says he tried to consult Nthei and Maphoka upon seeing them at court who then told him they did not know why the police had brought them before court. However, he says the police officers denied him the opportunity to further consult the two clients, citing that he could not interfere with police investigations.
Adv Makhabane further states that he followed his clients and the police officers when he realised they were going into Magistrate Letsika’s chambers where he was threatened and expelled.
“Upon hearing that they were there at the instance of the police, I asked for permission from the police officers to consult them briefly but they refused to allow me to consult them and told me that I have no right to speak to my clients,” Adv Masupha says in his court papers.
“I then asked them for the purpose of their presence at the Magistrate Court and they only told me that it was part of their investigations.
“There and then, the said policer officers took ‘Mamphoka to the chambers of Magistrate Letsika. I followed them into Magistrate Letsika’s chambers; in the chambers, it was l, ‘Mamphoka Rasekoai and one gentleman unknown to me. I introduced myself to Magistrate Letsika that I am ‘Mamphoka’s lawyer but she said will not entertain me as that was part of police investigations.
“She said as lawyers we interfere too much, that is why the Police will always beat us as lawyers just like Adv Mafaesa in front of my client and the other gentleman unknown to me. She thereby ordered me to get out of her chamber and I left.”
Adv Masupha narrates that he was shaken by Magistrate Letsika’s remarks and proceeded to inform Adv Mafaesa and Adv Letuka. He says he wanted advise from the two lawyers on how to handle the matter.
Adv Mafaesa was allegedly tortured by police officers along with his client, Liteboho Makhakhe, in January 2022. He was arrested at Hopolang Building in Maseru and briefly detained at the nearby police headquarters before being moved to Mabote Police Station where he was severely tortured by members of the police Special Operations Unit (SOU).
He was arrested on allegations of concealing a gun belonging to Mr Makhakhe. The gun is said to have been used in the commission of a robbery at an unspecified date in Mafeteng. Mr Makhakhe was also arrested and tortured at the same Mabote station.
Adv Mafaesa was only released after Adv Letuka, filed an urgent habeas corpus application for his release. Adv Letuka also went into hiding after the same police officers who arrested Adv Mafaesa allegedly threatened to torture him as well for interfering in their “business”. Adv Mafaesa has since sued the police for M5 million for his torture and his matter is still pending before the High Court.
Adv Masupha continues to state that the Thetsane Police Officers later on that day visited his chambers in Maseru and told him that Magistrate Letsika wanted to see him. Adv Masupha states that he went back to Adv Letuka and Adv Mafaesa to represent him before Magistrate Letsika because he did not know the reasons for his verbal summon.
“Magistrate Letsika got very angry and asked them (Mafaesa and Letuka) why they were there and they told her that they came as my lawyers. She stated that my conduct earlier was unbecoming and she was going to send me to prison for being in her chambers unauthorized earlier that day. Adv Letuka stated that he is representing me and would like to be given the audience but the learned magistrate remarked that she was going to send Adv Letuka and Adv Mafaesa to prison as well for being my lawyers.
“Magistrate stated that we are all lawyers and there is no law allowing lawyers to consult clients when they are in police custody. Adv Letuka said Ramakatsa v Commissioner of Police judgment permits of such but she remarked in Sesotho that “ntho tseling ke ntho lisele” and that is to say superior court precedent is nothing but a rubbish. She said I am a lawyer and I always represent other people therefore I must represent myself.
“Magistrate Letsika stated that we interfere a lot with the police and that is the reason the Police will always beat us up as legal practitioners and there and then advocate Mafaesa stated that he takes serious exception to magistrate insinuation. She then ordered Advocates Letuka and Mafaesa not to participate since they were to be sent to prison for assisting me and she rudely ordered them to leave her chambers. Advocate Letuka asked her to record her ruling but she blatantly refused.”
Adv Masupha says he learned for the first time then that Nthei and Maphoka were before Magistrate Letsika to register confessions. He says Magistrate Letsika once again threatened to send him to jail.
“After my lawyers left, Magistrate Letsika asked me why I interrupted her confession session earlier yet the police officers earlier told me that they were there for a confession. I reminded her that I did not interrupt her confession session as it had not commenced but she said she is not going to hear anything from me.
“She told me that I seem to be undermining the police officers and I also undermine her. I tried to explain myself as to what actually transpired but she rudely told me that she does not want to hear any explanation from myself. She said should I interrupt her like that in the future she will send me to prison and I fear and believe she will execute her threat. Magistrate behaved in a manner that induce sense of fear that I should never come to her again and represent someone investigated by the police.
“I aver that the conduct of Magistrate Letsika aforesaid violates section 12 (2) (d) of the Constitution of Lesotho that stipulates that I have a right to defend myself before court through legal representative of my own choice. Furthermore, the conduct of Magistrate Letsika violates section 12 (8) read with section 118 (2) of the Constitution in that she did not afford me a fair hearing and was not impartial. She further did not follow the precedent of High Court but labelled same rubbish. l practice in Maseru and as such frequently appear before Subordinate Court and there is a chance that I will appear before Magistrate Letsika again. Magistrate Letsika remarks say I should never again represent someone from the police that is subject of police investigations before her court and raise the objections. Unless the conduct of Magistrate Letsika is declared constitutionally wanting I stand to suffer the same humiliation and harassment.”