Metsing extradition process begins in SA

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has kick-started  the process leading to the extradition of Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader and former Deputy Prime Minister  Mothetjoa Metsing.

This follows a request by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government for his extradition back to Lesotho. The government’s request was communicated to SA  in writing by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Lesego Makgothi,  on behalf of the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Lebohang Hlaele.

Attorney General Haae Phoofolo yesterday confirmed the developments in an interview with the Lesotho Times.

Advocate Phoofolo also detailed how the extradition would play out, beginning with the South African authorities locating Mr Metsing in Durban where he is believed to be, arresting him and having him appear in a court which will rule on whether or not he has a prima facie case to answer to answer in the courts of law in Lesotho.

Advocate Phoofolo’s explanation underscores that the extradition process will not be an event but a process despite the South African government’s approval of the request as reported in the Sunday Express.  The entire process could be mired in the courts for a prolonged period if Mr Metsing opts to fight the extradition.   Documentary evidence show that South African authorities had approved Lesotho’s request and initiated the processes that could culminate in Mr Metsing’s extradition.

Communication between the two governments seen by the Lesotho Timesshow that South Africa’s Justice Minister, Tshililo Michael Masutha, issued a notification to the relevant government departments in his country to formally inform them of Lesotho’s request for the extradition of Mr Metsing.

“I, Mr Tshilo Michael Masutha, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services of the Republic of South Africa, give notice under section 5 (1) (a) of the Extradition Act, 1962 (Act 67 of 1962), that I have received a request for the extradition of Mr Mothetjoa Metsing to the Kingdom of Lesotho to stand trial on charges of corruption, fraud and tax evasion,” Mr Masutha wrote on 28 February 2018.

The notification was written after Mr Masutha had received a letter from Mr Makgothi requesting the “provisional arrest in respect of a former high ranking Lesotho government official”. Mr Makgothi’s letter is dated 14 December 2017 and it was received by his South African counterpart on the 20th of that same month.

Upon receiving Mr Masutha’s notification, the paper trail indicates that Vusi Madonsela, South Africa’s Director General in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development wrote to NPA head Shawn Abrahams requesting the latter’s office to assist the Department of Justice in the “execution of the request” of the Lesotho government regarding Mr Metsing’s extradition.

“The Department (of Justice) received a request for the extradition of Mr Metsing from South Africa to the Kingdom of Lesotho through diplomatic channels.

“Kindly be advised that the Minister (Mr Masutha) issued a notification that he has received a request for the extradition of Mr Metsing for offences of corruption, fraud and tax evasion.”

“You are kindly requested to assist the Department with the execution of the request,” part of Mr Madonsela’s letter to Advocate Abrahams states.

Thereafter on 13 March this year, Adv Phoebe Labuschagne, a state advocate at the NPA wrote to Adv Rita Blumrick of the office of the director of public prosecutions in Pietermaritzburg to request his office’s assistance in facilitating the process leading up to Mr Metsing’s extradition.

“Kindly ensure that the necessary assistance is rendered in the execution of the (Lesotho government’s request) and please keep this office abreast of the developments,” Adv Labuschagne wrote to Adv Blumrick.

Commenting on the issue, Adv Phoofolo yesterday told this publication that the wheels had been set in motion for Mr Metsing’s extradition, adding there was a lot that needed to be accomplished before the former deputy prime minister could be extradited.

“What needs to happen now is that Mr Metsing must be located and we are told he is in Durban. We have asked that he be arrested and he will appear in a South African court which will ultimately rule on whether or not he has a prima facie case to answer in Lesotho. There will be normal proceedings with defence lawyers and the prosecution,” Adv Phoofolo said.

He said  the government had arranged with prosecuters in South Africa to prosecute the case on Lesotho’s behalf. The  police and witnesses will be sent to South Africa to testify and also follow proceedings.

He explained that after the Magistrate’s Court in South Africa makes a ruling on the matter, it would communicate it to Mr Metsing and the Lesotho government. Both parties would then have 21 days in which to appeal if they so wished. Any appeal would be made to the High Court and thereafter to the Supreme Court and ultimately the Constitutional Court if necessary.

“When the court process has been completed, the court notifies the Minister of Justice in South Africa who can still use his discretion to decide whether or not to order the suspect to be handed over to the government of Lesotho,” Adv Phoofolo said.

The exchanges betwee Mr Masutha, the relevant South African departments and the Lesotho government fly in the face of yesterday’s claims by the LCDyouth league and its Democratic Congress (DC) ally that the extradition process had been bungled as there was no case for Mr Metsing to answer and he was not a fugitive.

“There is a lie meant to misdirect the people into believing that Ntate Metsing has to be extradited.  There is no evidence whatsoever to this effect and this is just a wishful thinking from the cruel nationalists because they are hurting  our leader’s name. He was cleared by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over the M53 million which they alleged he had corruptly taken,” said LCD youth league member, Libothe Makutoane. He said this at a press conference at the party’s offices in Maseru yesterday.

“South Africa has given Metsing refugee status and full protection and therefore it doesn’t make sense for the same country to revoke that to appease its Lesotho government counterparts.

“We warn anyone who wants to trend (on social media) by insulting and degrading Ntate Metsing to tread carefully and know that their deeds will have consequences. Metsing is not a playground, a murderer nor an authoritarian and if it is war that they (the current governing parties) want ,  they will get that when the time comes,” Mr Makutoane added.

Another LCD youth league member, Phokojoe Sekola, said the documents relating to the extradition could be forgeries.

“We wouldn’t be surprised if the papers which are being referred to as extradition papers are forged as the All Basotho Convention followers are capable of forgery of a high magnitude and we know that (Prime Minister Thomas) Thabane is the one behind this Metsing issue,” Mr Sekola said.

Jase Makafane of the DC, warned the DCEO against meddling in what he said were political issues.

“The DCEO is very active when it comes to persecuting Metsing and yet it still has a case of corruption to investigate on the Prime Minister and the Guptas. We therefore urge the DCEO to desist from meddling in politics and do its work without favour,” Mr Makafane said.

ABC spokesperson, Tefo Mapesela, called on the opposition to leave the ABC out of the Metsing issue and said they should instead advise him to return home and face charges in the courts which would ultimately decide whether or not he was innocent.

DCEO spokesperson, ’Matlhokomelo Senoko, refuted the claims that the DCEO meddled in politics saying its operations were governed by the law mandating them to tackle corruption and economic offences.

 

 

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