Metsing in the dock

 

. . . as third SA judge takes oath today to preside over deputy premier’s legal battle with DCEO

Tefo Tefo

SOUTH Africa’s Justice George Maluleke is expected to be sworn in today as Acting Judge of the Lesotho High Court and preside over a case in which Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing wants the Constitutional Court to declare the acquisition of his banking details by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) unconstitutional.

Justice Maluleke would be one of three South African judges set to decide Mr Metsing’s fate, with Justices John ‘Musi from Bloemfontein and Sulet Potterill from Pretoria, completing the three-member panel.

High Court Assistant Registrar, Staford Sharite, on Tuesday confirmed the developments, adding Justice Maluleke’s appointment was recommended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) last month.

“The Chief Justice (Nthomeng Majara) will swear-in Justice George Maluleke from Johannesburg, South Africa, as Acting Judge of the High Court to preside over Mr Metsing’s case,” Mr Sharite said.

“The swearing-in ceremony takes place on Thursday morning (today), and soon after, Justice Maluleke would join two other South African judges presiding over the case.”

Mr Metsing, who is contesting the acquisition of the banking details by the DCEO as part of the organisation’s investigations into his alleged involvement in corrupt activities, has requested a foreign panel of judges to preside over his case to eliminate any possible bias against him.

The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader has since requested two local judges, Justices Majara and Tšeliso Monaphathi, to recuse themselves from the case, hence Justice Maluleke’s appointment.

In his urgent application filed before the Constitutional Court on 11 August 2014, Mr Metsing argued the acquisition of the information from Standard Lesotho Bank and Nedbank early last year without his consent or being consulted, was a violation of his constitutional rights.

In an effort to strengthen his case against the DCEO, Mr Metsing submitted an affidavit before the Constitutional Court in November last year, in which he alleged his coalition government partners — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane — were behind the investigation.

The LCD, All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Dr Thabane and Chief ‘Maseribane respectively, formed a coalition government in June 2012. However, the alliance has since disintegrated following complaints by Mr Metsing that the premier was not consulting him when making key decisions with a bearing on good governance. The collapse of the alliance and government necessitated a snap election, which is scheduled for 28 February this year.

However, in the affidavit, Mr Metsing indicated the DCEO was being used by the two leaders, “with the hope of enhancing their political careers”.

The affidavit notes: “Firstly, it is apparent that the first and second respondents (DCEO’s Director General Borotho Matsoso and DCEO) have been conniving with some politicians to vilify me.

“In this regard, a letter written by the Prime Minister (Thomas Thabane) that emerged after the political crisis of August 2014, speaks volumes about this fact.

“In the letter which I annex and mark “RM2”, the Prime Minister alleges that I am involved in corruption.”

Mr Metsing then quoted Dr Thabane as saying: “He is involved in malpractices and abuse of power, leading to huge losses of public funds, possibly for personal gain and this is demonstrated by large amounts of money that are being deposited into his bank account over some time now.”

Mr Metsing further states: “Secondly, the third respondent (Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs Haae Phoofolo) who is a member of the ABC, made similar allegations at a political rally.

“Although I heard the full speech he made, as it was broadcast on Lesotho Television, I wish to annex herewith and mark “RM3”, a newspaper report of that speech.

“In that speech, the third respondent, Mr Phoofolo (Law and Constitutional Affairs minister Haae Phoofolo), who is a trained lawyer by profession, is alleging that I am corrupt and that I have opened several accounts wherein I deposited public monies; that the conduct of the respondents in accessing my accounts is not unconstitutional; that as an expert in the field (of law) he knows that I have no case.”

Mr Metsing also considers the said statements significant to his case, arguing in the affidavit that Advocate Phoofolo “is designated as a minister for purposes of the administration of the DCEO Act 1999 as amended”.

He continues: “Secondly, in terms of Section 52 of the DCEO Act, the second respondent (DCEO) is obliged to report to this particular minister.

“It is inconceivable, therefore, that the first and second respondents did not brief the said minister on these issues.”

But Mr Metsing also says there are inconsistencies in the accusations made against him by the DCEO and his coalition partners, which he insists point to a plot to destroy his political career.

He notes: “Notably, the allegation that is common in respect of both the prime minister and third respondent (Advocate Phoofolo), contrary to what the first respondent (DCEO Director General) avers, is that the monies deposited into my accounts are public funds, whereas the case of the first and second respondents is that it is money possibly from Big Bravo (Pty) Ltd.”

Big Bravo Construction is the company that was engaged for the upgrading of Matala Phase One and Matala-to-Ha Leqele Bus Stop roads last year.

The company is alleged to have won the M120 million tender due to Mr Metsing’s influence and was, therefore, allegedly depositing money into the deputy premier’s accounts in gratitude.

Mr Metsing continues in his affidavit: “To demonstrate that the so-called investigations are but a sham, the leader of the BNP, who is also the Minister of Youth and Gender Affairs, has publicly stated that I am corrupt; and that I have tried to overthrow the government in order to avoid prosecution for corruption.”

He further argued Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana also made similar statements, hence his belief that the DCEO probe was only meant to victimise him.

According to the affidavit, the DCEO’s investigations started when the coalition government started to break down early last year.

“The timing of the so-called investigations of my accounts for alleged corruption, indeed coincided with the total fallout between the coalition partners in the government of Lesotho led by the Prime Minister.

“When in September 2013, I stopped him from taking over a ministry allocated to my party, he (Dr Thabane) started making allegations that members of my party were corrupt.

“It was in February 2014, from the papers disclosed now in this application, that the so-called investigations commenced, and a unilateral prorogation of Parliament followed in March 2014,” he charged.

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