Metsing pulling all the stops

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. . . meets Moseneke to pressure SADC to block his treason, murder trial

’Marafaele Mohloboli

LESOTHO Congress of Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothejoa Metsing, is pulling all the stops to try and stop his trial for treason and murder.

This after the former deputy prime minister this week met with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) facilitator to Lesotho, retired Justice Dikgang Moseneke, to pile pressure on the regional bloc to halt his trial for alleged treason and murder.

Mr Metsing met Justice Moseneke in Pretoria on Tuesday, according to LCD spokesperson, Apesi Ratšele. The meeting was part of Mr Metsing’s attempts to stop the state from trying him and his co-accused, Selibe Mochoboroane, for treason and murder alongside former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, and others.

The meeting comes hard on the heels of Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane’s 24 November 2021 letter to Justice Moseneke to take their issue to SADC leaders to ensure that “decisive and prompt intervention” is made before their expected court date on 6 December 2021.

The duo warned in their letter to Justice Moseneke that failure to stop their trial would leave them with no option but to withdraw from the ongoing multi-sector reform processes recommended by SADC as part of efforts to ensure lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.

The letter was written in the aftermath of the 18 November 2021 High Court judgement which threw out the duo’s application to stop the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, from joining them to the treason and murder case of Lt-Gen Kamoli and others.

Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane will now be formally charged on 6 December 2021 alongside Lt-Gen Kamoli, Captain Liketanyo Nyakane and lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.

DPP Motinyane had amended their charge sheet in February 2020 to include treason, attempted murder and aggravated assault, among other charges. She also added Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane to the list of the accused persons.

The two politicians then filed numerous applications to stop the DPP from charging and joining them to Lt-Gen Kamoli and his fellow accused’s trial. The applications included their latest appeal heard by Justice Sakoane before he reserved judgement on 27 September 2021.

A fortnight ago, Justice Sakoane ruled that the two politicians should appear before him on 6 December 2021 alongside other accused persons in order to be joined to the trial. He said their application stood to be dismissed because “it did not pass the legal muster”.

The treason and murder charges are in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Mr Metsing, the LCD leader, was deputy prime minister at the time of the attempted coup while Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader and current Development Planning Minister, Mr Mochoboroane, was Communications, Science and Technology Minister and LCD secretary general.

Lt-Gen Kamoli had been fired by Mr Thabane from his post as army commander on 29 August 2014 before orchestrating the attempted coup allegedly with the support of Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane, Captain Nyakane and Lance Corporals Ntsane and Motsieloa. Messrs Thabane and Metsing had fallen out with the latter alleging he was not being consulted on key decisions.

The murder case is in connection with the murder of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko which occurred during the attempted coup night when soldiers under the command of Lt-Gen Kamoli raided police stations to disarm police officials said to have been loyal to Mr Thabane.

The joining of Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane to the trial is highly significant in that it will be the first time for a sitting cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister to be charged with capital crimes like treason and murder.

The High Court’s decision to join them to the trial is also a major statement by the country’s judiciary that the laws of the land take precedence over SADC decisions and agreements as long as they are not domesticated through an act of parliament.

Mr Metsing, in particular, will be cursing his luck as he had fled the country in 2017 citing an alleged plot to assassinate him by the Thabane government which had won elections in June of that year.  He only returned the following year on the back of a SADC-brokered government-opposition agreement that he would not be prosecuted for any crimes at least until after the country had implemented the multi-sector reforms.

Clause 10 of that 2018 government-opposition agreement stated that “Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reforms process”.

Incidentally, it was signed between the opposition and the previous government which was led by Mr Thabane – the victim of the attempted coup during his first stint as premier.

Justice Moseneke subsequently wrote to Mr Thabane last year, demanding that the government stops the judiciary from prosecuting Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane.

But in two separate judgements in 2018 and 2020, the Constitutional Court had already struck down clause 10 as unconstitutional and ordered the two politicians to stand trial.

But Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane have clung to Clause 10 as their possible saviour, notwithstanding that it has been twice outlawed.

While confirming Mr Metsing’s meeting with Justice Moseneke yesterday, Mr Ratšele said he could not divulge the details.

“I can only confirm that there was a meeting between our leader and Justice Moseneke but I will not divulge any details of this closed meeting lest we jeopardise processes,” Mr Ratšele said yesterday.

“It has been agreed that all that was discussed in that meeting remains a secret until Friday when we will have a clear stance and know what to tell the public. For now, it is only worth noting that this was just a follow-up meeting and reminder of what is already on the table regarding the SADC memorandum of understanding and we respect that Ntate Moseneke is working on it.”

Although Mr Ratšele could not divulge who attended the meeting, the Lesotho Times understands that Mr Metsing was in the company of his party deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, and treasurer Mantu Phooko.

With the judiciary having repeatedly pronounced itself on the matter, it is difficult to see how Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane still hope to wiggle their way out of the trial. Their unrelenting efforts to oust the jurisdiction of Lesotho’s courts without the requisite enabling municipal law is seen working against them in the long run.

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