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Metsing, Kamoli must face trial: Phoofolo

by Lesotho Times
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Billy Ntaote

HUMAN Rights, Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Haae Phoofolo says Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing will “definitely” have his day in court and defend himself against corruption charges which have been levelled against him.

Speaking at a joint All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP) rally held in Moshoeshoe II, Maseru on Sunday, Advocate Phoofolo said Mr Metsing should let the law take its course and not employ “delaying tactics” to evade justice.

Advocate Phoofolo, who never mentioned Mr Metsing by name during the address but would constantly refer to a case in which the deputy premier has asked two local judges to recuse themselves from his trial scheduled for the High Court on 17 November 2014, insisted the request was a ploy to delay the trial.

In papers filed before the Constitutional Court on 11 August 2014, Mr Metsing wants Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi off a case in which he is challenging the acquisition of his banking details from Standard Lesotho Bank and Nedbank Lesotho by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences, as part of corruption investigations against him.

According to sources privy to the case, Mr Metsing would only want foreign judges on the case to eliminate any possibility of bias against his.

Chief Justice Majara, Justice Monaphathi and Justice John ‘Musi of South Africa are set to hear Mr Metsing’s urgent application, in which he is seeking the Constitutional Court to declare the acquisition of the banking details a violation of his “right to private and family life”.

However, Advocate Phoofolo told the cheering ABC and BNP supporters that opening many bank accounts by ministers and senior government officials had become commonplace during the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

Dr Mosisili, who had ruled Lesotho for 15 years, relinquished power after his Democratic Congress (DC) had failed to win an outright majority in the 26 May 2012 general election. ABC leader Thomas Thabane was subsequently installed premier after forming an alliance with the BNP and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) led by BNP leader Thesele ‘Maseribane and Mr Metsing respectively, to form the country’s first coalition government, but the alliance has since collapsed, prompting an early election in February 2015. Among the reasons the partnership has ended was Mr Metsing’s public criticism of Dr Thabane’s alleged dictatorial tendencies, while the prime minister attributes the collapse to his tough stance on corruption.

“What’s baffling is that it appears no one knows who opened these accounts,” Advocate Phoofolo told Sunday’s rally, which was also attended by Dr Thabane and BNP Deputy Leader Joang Molapo.

“It seemed whenever people saw government money, they would open bank accounts and divert the funds into those private accounts.

“But we are investigating by asking the banks to reveal who owns those accounts. We have been asking how come an individual can have an account that has government money diverted into it.

“One of the people under investigation has been complaining that his rights were violated when investigators asked for the source of funds in his accounts.

“When there is a probe into how money was deposited into his accounts, this person complains that we are investigating him too much. He is saying we are not supposed to investigate him because we are violating his human rights.

“But when you speak of human rights, you are talking about my field of expertise. When it comes to revealing the source of one’s finances, people do not have the right to conceal where their money came from. Your right is to explain where you took the money from; what the source of the money is.

“But when this person was supposed to reveal his source of funding, he launched a court case against government; he sued us when he was supposed to simply reveal where the money being deposited into his accounts was coming from. So we say let’s go to court, but we are now shocked to hear him complain that he does not trust the judges on the bench.

“He wants us to go get him new judges from outside our country. When will we finish this case? Where will this government get the money for his trial?

“But this person must rest assured that we will work tirelessly to make sure the case is heard in court.”

Advocate Phoofolo, who is also the Maseru Central No 32 Member of Parliament (MP) — a seat he won on an ABC ticket in 2012 — also said since assuming office two years ago, he had realised most high-profile cases before the courts were not being heard because of “delaying tactics”.

“Each time a high-profile case is lodged before the courts, something else comes up; they always have something to complain about; they have all sorts of delaying tactics. But we know we are going to win in the end because we know where we are headed with these cases,” the minister assured the cheering crowd.

Even if the ABC and BNP lose the February 2015 general elections and are not part of the new government, it would be interesting to see what happens to these high-profile cases, Advocate Phoofolo further said.

“Even if they win next year’s elections and assume office, we would want to see whether they will dismiss those cases because we lodged them before the courts according to the law.”

Advocate Phoofolo further told the supporters to reject any campaign to grant amnesty to anyone suspected to have committed serious crimes, such as treason and murder. In apparent reference to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli whom Dr Thabane has accused of attempting to overthrow his government on the weekend of 28-29 August 2014, resulting in the death of one police officer, Advocate Phoofolo said such actions should not go unpunished.

Dr Thabane had fired Lt Gen Kamoli as Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander on 28 August, but the following morning, LDF members raided three key Maseru police stations leading to the death of a sub-inspector, and a five-day paralysis of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service. Dr Thabane was also forced to flee Lesotho for South Africa on the night of 28 August alongside Sports Minister Chief ‘Maseribane after being tipped-off about the LDF manoeuvres, which the premier later called an attempted coup.

The prime minister and Chief ‘Maseribane only returned to Lesotho on 3 September 2014 under the protection of South African police officers who guard them to this day, and are expected to continue doing so until the nation chooses a new government in February 2015.

Advocate Phoofolo said: “We now hear rumours that there are some people who are saying those who committed serious crimes such as treason and murder should be granted amnesty. I’m begging the prime minister to leave this one to my opinion as his minister. Those who committed treason should not be pardoned.

“That person, Ntate, wanted to kill you. The plan was so bad; I know because I am privy to the investigations into this treason case. The plan was so wicked that they had planned your assassination. That is why I am saying there should be no amnesty for treason.”

Advocate Phoofolo then asked the supporters to chant “No Amnesty For Treason, No Amnesty For Treason, No Amnesty For Treason”, creating such a spectacle as the rally broke into song and dance.

Advocate Phoofolo capped his speech with words of advice for Dr Thabane.

“If anyone encourages you to agree to this amnesty, you should say people who attacked Ntate Mosisili’s home in 2010 are still in prison for treason; and they were never given amnesty.”

Meanwhile, Dr Thabane, who was also expected to address the rally failed to do so due to torrential rains, which pounded the area soon after Advocate Phoofolo’s address.

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