Minister sues defunct newspaper

MASERU — Local Government Minister Pontso Sekatle is suing the defunct Voice of Free Democrats newspaper for M800 000 for defamation.

The partisan newspaper was published by some members of the ruling Congress for Democracy (LCD) youth league.

Sekatle claims the paper, which collapsed due to financial problems, defamed her character and damaged her reputation in a series of articles it published in January last year.

The paper was run by a group of youths who were suspected to be aligned to a faction of the ruling party.

It ran stories attacking ministers, senior party members and government officials.

In her court papers Sekatle claims the articles were meant to portray her as an “untruthful” (liar) and corrupt public officer.

The parties will meet in court on November 25 to set the date for the hearing.

The publishers of the Voice of Free Democrats are yet to file a response but have indicated that Sekatle’s suit will be defended.

“In its various issues covering the period from about the beginning to about the end of January 2009 the defendants (The Voice and its editors) herein unlawfully and with intent to defame plaintiff (Sekatle), published several defamatory allegations and matters about and concerning the plaintiff herein,” says the minister in the papers.

“The net effect of these publications was that the plaintiff is corrupt, untruthful and immoral criminal with perverse and degenerated understanding of moral values and that she corruptly abuses the public office she holds as minister.”

Sekatle also complains about her pictures and cartoons that accompanied the articles in the newspaper.

She said the paper ridiculed her without justification and in the process damaged her reputation through the publication of those cartoons.

“The abovementioned publications, some of which were accompanied by plaintiff’s pictures and cartoons are untrue, defamatory per se or at least in the context in which they were published.

“They were read and understood by the readers of the first defendant (The Voice) as being about and concerning the plaintiff herein.”

She claims the publications reached thousands of readers in Lesotho and neighbouring countries.

The people who read the articles, Sekatle claims, were led to believe that she was a corrupt person.

“They were read by thousands of people who prior thereto, held plaintiff in great esteem and who have understood the publications to mean inter alia that, plaintiff is indeed, corrupt, debased, untruthful, dishonest and that she is an immoral criminal not worthy of the public office she holds and that she has perverse and degenerated understanding of moral values,” the papers say.

It is further alleged that the publications have badly impacted on Sekatle’s dignity.

“The said publications have greatly and irretrievably impaired and damaged plaintiff’s dignitas and fame in the eyes of thousands of right-thinking members of society in Lesotho, the Republic of South Africa and other countries.

“As a result plaintiff has suffered damages in the sum of M800 000 for which she holds defendants jointly and severally liable,” the papers read.

Other defendants are the editor Refiloe Mohapi, co-editor Tjonane Matla, co-editor Motebang Masike and Mohala oa Ntsu (Pty) Ltd, the company that owns the paper.

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