Majoro, Mahao fight fire with fire

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  • accuse Manyokole of destabilising govt

Pascalinah Kabi / Mohalenyane Phakela

PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro and his Law and Justice Minister, Professor Nqosa Mahao, have joined forces against the embattled director general of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Mahlomola Manyokole, accusing him of destabilising the current regime.

Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao also deny Adv Manyokole’s allegations that they are involved in corrupt activities, saying the DCEO boss’ claims are not legally sound but “politically inflammatory statements” meant to “destabilise and compromise” the government.

Their allegations are contained in their court papers filed in response to Adv Manyokole’s High Court application challenging Dr Majoro’s moves to oust him.

Late last month, Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao renewed their bid to fire Adv Manyokole after having appeared to abandon the initial one.

In that fresh effort, Dr Majoro set up a three-member tribunal to determine Adv Manyokole’s fitness to hold office while Prof Mahao issued a new “show-cause” letter asking Adv Manyokole to justify why he should not be suspended while the tribunal probes him. Dr Majoro has since suspended Adv Manyokole after the latter elected to approach the court for relief and not to respond to Prof Mahao’s “show cause” letter.

Adv Manyokole is accused of incompetence, corruption and abusing his office to shield criminals from prosecution.  He has generally faced accusations of being a ‘Maesaiah appointee”, catapulted to the top job without any prior investigative nor prosecutorial experience. This in reference to ex- Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife, ‘Maesaiah, who is said to have wielded immense influence over her husband including selecting candidates for key government appointments. The DCEO boss refutes the allegations.  He, in his latest application, lambasts Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao as “the real crusaders of corruption”.

He says Dr Majoro is under investigation for money laundering and corruption. One case against the premier has already been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for prosecution, he claims, without elaborating.  He also implicates the premier in the alleged corrupt awarding of a lease to run Victoria Hotel to the late businessman Thabiso Tlelai.

Prof Mahao on the other hand stands accused of trying to sabotage criminal investigations into a Chinese company which allegedly employs his nephew. Dr Majoro is also accused of seeking to protect the same Chinese company because of alleged vested interests in its operations.

Prof Mahao is further accused of seeking to illegally abuse the DCEO to launch probes into opponents such as Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane and former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing to settle political scores.

In that regard, Adv Manyokole alleges Prof Mahao tried to illegally pressure him to investigate and dig up any dirt against Messrs Mochoboroane and Metsing to establish a basis for their prosecution.

He alleges that Prof Mahao has also attempted to pressure him into investigating High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar Adv ‘Mathato Sekoai for possible corruption. Adv Sekoai and Prof Mahao do not see eye to eye after they clashed late last year over the former’s support for moves by Attorney General Haae Phoofolo and former Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase to appoint five new judges to the High Court without consulting fellow members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Prof Mahao himself.

Retired Judge Teboho Moiloa, who was appointed to chair a tribunal established to probe Adv Manyokole’s fitness to hold office, has not been spared the DCEO boss’ venom. Adv Manyokole alleges the retired judge is not fit to chair any investigations against him as he is himself already being probed by the DCEO for corruption and money laundering.

Adv Manyokole had appeared to be off the hook last month after Prof Mahao withdrew his first “show cause” letter in which he had sought to suspend the DCEO boss. This after an out of court settlement with Adv Manyokole after the latter had gone to court to interdict his suspension. It is not clear what had prompted Prof Mahao to agree to an out of court settlement and withdraw his initial “show cause” letter.

Adv Manyokole’s lawyer, Tekane Maqakachane, had informed High Court Judge Justice Molefi Makara that they would finalise negotiations for an out of court settlement with Prof Mahao to be presented before the judge and made an order of court. That all did not happen and Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao instead renewed their bid to oust him from office.

The latest bid to oust him has provoked a furious response from Adv Manyokole who has made the sensational corruption allegations against the premier, Prof Mahao, Justice Moiloa and others.

However, Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao have not taken the allegations lying down.

                                                 Destabilising government

In his answering affidavit, Dr Majoro categorically denies the corruption allegations against him, saying the claims are not only calculated at destabilising the government but also diverting attention from the probe into the DCEO boss’ fitness to remain in office.

“…regrettable and gratuitous averments are made to the effect that both the Minister of Justice and Law and the Prime Minister (myself) are crusaders of corruption ourselves,” Dr Majoro states.

“I take issue with these views as expressed in the founding affidavit of Mr Mahlomola Manyokole. These unfortunate remarks are made by a public official appointed by my predecessor (Thomas Thabane) and functioning and operating in the government which I currently lead. It puts the office of Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and Law, Chief Justice (and) government at large and the DCEO into disrepute.

“The Minister of Justice and Law is for his part, accused of making attempts to have another cabinet member of the government which I head – Hon Mochoboroane and the former Deputy Prime Minister – Hon Metsing prosecuted. The deponent to the founding affidavit (Manyokole) alleges the 2nd respondent (Mahao) endeavored to make him do that which he does not have the power to do. The DG does not have the power to prosecute. That power exclusively inheres in the office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

“His (Mahao’s) affidavit is attached herein in support of mine and he is categorically in opposition of this politically inflammatory statement in which the deponent (Manyokole) aims to create a constitutional crisis. This may effectively yield a breeding ground to a well-orchestrated dispute between not only my office as Head of Government but also between two of my cabinet members (Mahao and Mochoboroane) from two differing political parties in a coalition government which I am currently leading.

“I wish to take the court into my confidence and state that this statement (corruption allegations raised by Manyokole) was clearly professionally uncouth from a head of such a delicate institution and the motive was and remains that of a political nature not a legal one,” Dr Majoro states.

Prof Mahao concurs, saying in his own court papers that it was necessary to suspend Adv Manyokole because his continued presence at the DCEO posed a threat to national security.

He said he was forced to advise the premier to suspend Adv Manyokole after the latter deliberately chose not to respond to his “show cause” letter instead by the 4 January 2021 deadline and instead opted to launch a “collateral attack” on the government.

“I was influenced (to advise Manyokole’s suspension) by the fact that the DG was involved in continued acts of sabotage which commenced with the explosive averments stated in the founding affidavit of DG,” Prof Mahao states.

“My attention was drawn to his decision to remove files from the directorate’s custody and I have since learnt with deep concern and consternation that the DG is actively engaging in acts aimed at sabotaging both the institution and the government.

“I have since received some intelligence reports that he has instructed the information technology (IT) personnel to tamper and or delete crucial information from the directorate’s database. Given the delicacy of the matter and its sensitivity, I sourced the intervention of intelligence agencies…

“The intelligence which I gathered was that the DG was seen at the official precincts of the DCEO carrying some files even after the launch of the judicial proceedings. It is safe to conclude that the aim was and is to prejudice the case pending before court as against the state. The same applies to the proceedings of the tribunal. This proves detrimental to the stability of the nation and the DCEO given the explosive averments that he alluded to in his affidavit. I am constrained to contend that the national security of Lesotho was and is seriously compromised by the activities of the DG,” Prof Mahao states.

                                                         Smokescreen

Dr Majoro further argues that the corruption allegations against him and others are merely a smokescreen intended to divert attention from the probe into Adv Manyokole’s fitness to remain in office.

He argues that the alleged DCEO probe into his and others alleged corruption was unprocedural as it was only begun after Adv Manyokole became aware that a tribunal had been established to probe him.

Still that DCEO probe was not procedural as it was conducted at a time when the DCEO had closed for the Christmas holidays, he alleges.

“The DG conveniently if not purportedly concluded an investigation against me during the time when the operations of DCEO were officially on halt due to Christmas Holidays.

“He purports to have transmitted the docket to the office of the DPP on the same day (29 December 2020) and this was coincidentally if not ironically on the same day when he learnt of a tribunal established to probe his fitness to hold office and five days after the establishment of tribunal.

“The DCEO was officially closed on the given day when the initiative was undertaken to transmit the docket. I emphasise that I, in my personal capacity, have not been warned as a suspect and or charged of any criminal offence to date and I remain ignorant of the details and or particulars of my criminal investigations. There is no legal impediment that precludes me as Head of Government or Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho from exercising both my constitutional and statutory mandate…

“I insist that the motive behind this endeavour was none other than to destabilise and compromise the government which I lead but not only that, to serve as a red herring and to divert not only the court but the entire nation from the issues which must be probed by the contemplated tribunal,” Dr Majoro states.

                                          

Manyokole ‘not untouchable’

On his part, Prof Mahao tears into Adv Manyokole, saying the latter’s claims that he is probing Dr Majoro and other senior prominent people do not make him “untouchable” and he must have his day before the tribunal.

“It is not sufficient to say, as he (Manyokole) efficiently does, that he is untouchable because he either possesses what he terms ‘intelligence’ about people or that he is investigating them and that they are disqualified to preside over his matter because they are alleged to have committed money laundering at some stage 10 years ago.

“It is indeed surprising that he is only now making damaging allegations about dignitaries of this country without first interviewing them as suspects according to law and conveniently for him at the time when he is supposed to appear before the tribunal to answer his specific case,” Prof Mahao states.

He argues that they correctly suspended Adv Manyokole because there was no court order barring them from doing so even if the matter is still pending before court.

“This initiative (of suspension) had to be undertaken given the extent to which the continued occupation of office by the DG would compromise the administration of both the state and the DCEO. Beyond that, there are private citizens (curiously branded as suspects by the DG) who are glaringly prejudiced by the apparent maladministration of the DCEO and whose purported investigations form the subject of publication even before they are charged or interviewed for that matter.

“The publication of information that the retired judge is a suspect even before he could be charged and even before the decision to prosecute was made by the Director of Public Prosecutions (Adv Hlalefang Motinyane) says a lot about the mismanagement of the affairs of DCEO under the administrative supervision of the deponent to the founding affidavit.”

                                                    Breakdown in relations

He argues that the suspension was all the more necessary due to the tension between Dr Majoro and Adv Manyokole.

“I aver that the interests of the state and the DCEO have to be balanced with those of the DG. There is compelling evidence that there is a severe breakdown of relations between the DG and the office of the Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Law and the Directorate Appointment and Promotion Board. The break in confidence and trust in the mentioned offices clearly point to the compound challenges facing the DG beyond the fact that there is a tribunal established to probe his fitness to hold office.

“The devoted act of seeking to interdict the suspension does not attract any balance of convenience in favour of the DG, if anything the circumstances lean in favour of him being suspended with full benefits which accrue to his office.

“I therefore stand firmly by my decision to recommend the suspension of the DG and equally support the initiative on the part of the prime minister to have the DG suspended,” Prof Mahao states. (See story on Page 7).

 

 

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