Ministers fight

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…as Mofomobe accuses Rakuoane, DC of sabotaging high-profile trials

Mohalenyane Phakela

BASOTHO National Party (BNP) leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, has accused the Democratic Congress (DC) and the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) of plotting to derail high-profile trials involving various military personnel.

Mr Mofomobe, whose party is in the governing coalition alongside the DC, PFD and several other parties, this week recorded a video wherein he accused his two coalition allies of plotting the collapse of the trials in order to free murder-accused former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and other suspects.

PFD leader and Law and Justice Minister, Lekhetho Rakuoane, has vehemently denied the allegations. He accused Mr Mofomobe of “playing cheap politics” by accusing them of issues they had nothing to do with. DC spokesperson, Serialong Qoo’s mobile phone rang answered yesterday evening when the Lesotho Times called him for comment.

However, Mr Mofomobe said the two parties had always opposed the previous Thomas Thabane-led coalition’s decision to recruit foreign judges to preside over the high-profile trials of politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies. The two parties were in opposition at the time but they subsequently joined the current Moeketsi Majoro-led coalition formed in May 2020 in the wake of Mr Thabane being forced out of power by his own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.

Now that they were in power, Mr Mofomobe said they had hatched their grand plan which revolved around delaying to renew the contract of Zimbabwean Judge Charles Hungwe and delaying the payment of the salary of the lead prosecutor, South African Shaun Abrahams.

“We all know it is the undying wish of some people to ensure that justice is not served on the soldiers who are suspects in the high-profile cases,” Mr Mofomobe said.

“There are two sides in this country, those who want justice and others who don’t want it served. There are those who say the high-profile cases are politically motivated but some of us believe that justice can only be served by the courts of law. Even if the police were to fabricate charges against a person, the court would still require evidence in the case.

“There are politicians who are always vocal in advocating for the release of the accused soldiers. They disregard the families of the victims who lost their lives at the hands of these soldiers. We also saw their attempts to enact the so-called blanket amnesty law in order for their jailed political friends to be released. When some of us challenged their attempts to enact that law, they went back to the drawing board,” Mr Mofomobe said. This was probably in reference to the National Peace and Unity Bill which seeks to provide for the establishment of a National Peace and Unity Commission to consider pardoning high-profile criminals provided they truthfully testify before the commission and show remorse for their crimes.

The ABC and BNP have joined families of the victims of various human rights atrocities committed over the years by politicians and members of the security agencies in vehemently opposing the Bill.

They argue that the Bill is “nothing but a veiled attempt to bypass Lesotho’s justice system and shield criminal politicians from accounting for their outrageous impunities and perpetually imperilling Lesotho’s peace, stability and progress”. It is yet to be approved by parliament after it was tabled in parliament by Mr Rakuoane in May this year.

Mr Mofomobe also alleged that the DC and PFD were opposed to the recruitment of foreign judges to preside over the high-profile trials.

“There were judges who were appointed with the help of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and some politicians did not like that.

“Since Rakuoane, whose party is under the DC, took over the Ministry of Law and Justice, there were things which happened to frustrate these cases. The plan is to have the trials collapse and the accused soldiers released.

“It recently happened that Justice (Charles) Hungwe’s contract expired. Things being right, the judiciary should get funding from the ministry of law. Now you do not see the ministry of law making any effort to avail the funds to extend his contract. This means that those cases must collapse so that an application can be made for the release of the suspects.

“There has also been a delay in paying Abrahams. These things did not just happen on their own but they were planned by players in this ministry. These people are at a very advanced stage but we who advocate for peace will ensure the rule of law prevails,” said Mr Mofomobe who is also Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing minister.

However, Adv Rakuoane blasted his cabinet colleague for “playing to the gallery” and levelling “false” accusations against him.

“Machesetsa is playing dirty politics and he does not even behave like a minister. He has lost the political plot. His accusations are baseless as there is nothing that he can point at to prove that we are frustrating these cases.

“The two Botswana judges (Kabelo Lebotse and Onkemetse Tshosa) left for their own reasons and the first one departed before we even came into government. The EU has confirmed that there is money to continue paying Justice Hungwe. I have not signed any document to frustrate these cases. After all, Justice Hungwe’s contract is drawn up by the Judicial Service Commission in cooperation with the EU. All the government did was to confirm that there were still funds from the EU to pay him. Machesetsa should stop playing cheap politics,” Adv Rakuoane said.

 

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