‘The case was an abuse of court processes to settle political scores’
THE prosecution this week withdrew sedition charges against fired Communications, Science and Technology Minister Selibe Mochoboroane after conceding the indictment had been a grave mistake.
In addition to sedition, Mr Mochoboroane was also being accused of making statements “calculated to violate the dignity or injure the reputation of the Royal Family”.
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy spokesperson, who was fired by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 16 October 2014 for alleged insubordination but has refused to vacate the post after questioning the decision’s legitimacy, had been summoned to appear before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday to answer the two charges he allegedly committed on 8 September 2014.
The charges related to the dismissal of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, on 28 August 2014 by Dr Thabane. Lt Gen Kamoli has also refused to accept the dismissal questioning its legitimacy.
Reads Mr Mochoboroane’s charge sheet: “Selibe Mochoboroane, a male adult aged 37 of Matheko Posholi, is charged with contravening Section 79 (1) and (2) of the Penal Code Act no 6 of 2010…
“In that upon or about 8 September 2014 and at or near MoAfrika FM Radio Station at Carlton Centre Building in the district of Maseru, the said accused did unlawfully, intentionally and or knowingly commit an act calculated to violate the dignity or injure the reputation of the Royal family by uttering words to wit, ‘leha re se re tlohela ho e sheba mahlong a molao ke bona mona Tona-Kholo a elelitse Motlotlehi ho tlola molao a re o sebelisa molao’ (The prime minister advised His Majesty King Letsie III to break the law, while at the same time, the prime minister was pretending to uphold the law).”
Alternatively, Mr Mochoboroane was charged with sedition by contravening Section 76 (2) (b) read with sub-sections (1) & (5) (a) (b) (c) (d) & (e) of the Penal Code Act No 6 of 2010.
The full sedition charge reads: “…In that upon or about September 8, 2014 and at or near MoAfrika FM Radio Station at Carlton Centre Building in the district of Maseru, the said accused unlawfully and with the intention of defying or subverting the authority of the Government of Lesotho, but without the intention to overthrow or coerce the Government of Lesotho, did utter seditious words to wit… ‘leha se re tlohela ho e sheba mahlong a molao ke bona mona Tona-Kholo a elelitse Motlotlehi ho tlola molao are o sebelisa molao’ to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of His Majesty or the Government of Lesotho…or to incite the people and residents of Lesotho…and/or to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Lesotho…or to cause discontent or disaffection against the administration of justice in Lesotho…and/or to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Lesotho.”
However, when the case was ready to proceed on Tuesday morning, Mr Mochoboroane’s lawyer, Motiea Teele, and crown counsel, Thapelo Mokuku, went into Magistrate Lerato Ntelane’s chambers where the latter withdrew the charges.
According to the court’s records, Advocate Mokuku told Magistrate Ntelane that the charges had been preferred by mistake.
However, sources close to the matter told the Lesotho Times that the charges were withdrawn because the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Leaba Thetsane, had not issued a directive to prosecute Mr Mochoboroane.
Addressing LCD, Democratic Congress (DC) and Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) supporters at the court’s premises shortly after the charges’ withdrawal, Mr Mochoboroane, who is also Member of Parliament (MP) for Thabana-Morena, insisted the case was but an abuse of court processes to settle political scores.
“My friends share the same sentiments as myself, that this is not a genuine lawsuit, but a battle facing the entire nation,” Mr Mochoboroane.
“Four different churches in my area (Thabana-Morena) also organised and invited me for prayer sessions last Sunday after discovering that the war I am fighting is nothing but a political battle.
“We already won the first leg of the battle when parliament was recently re-opened (on 17 October after its nine-month prorogation on 10 June 2014 by Dr Thabane who feared a no-confidence vote by opposition legislators).
“We are now facing the second leg of our battle, which is persecution under the pretext of prosecution for violating the law.”
Mr Mochoboroane further told the supporters that he still stood by what he had said over the radio.
“I only said the prime minister had ill-advised the King when he knew very well that there was a court decision regarding the dismissal of commissioned army officers, yet he went ahead to advise the King to dismiss the army commander,” he said.
“Perhaps I should also tell you that I grew up staying in the Royal Family. The King summoned me to explain to him the rumour he had heard that I had insulted or spoke in a disrespectful manner against him over the radio. I met the King and he asked me to tell him exactly what I had said over the radio and I told him the same story that he was ill-advised by the prime minister.
“The King assured me that he was not angry with me for what I had said as he found no fault in what I had said.”
Meanwhile, among those present at the court premises to celebrate Mr Mochoboroane’s victory was LCD leader, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, Forestry and Land Reclamation Minister Khotso Matla and Mr Metsing’s Political Advisor, Mpho Malie.