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Molibeli branded “the worst abuser of court processes”

by Lesotho Times
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after police boss files last minute recusal application to avoid being jailed

Mohalenyane Phakela

COMMISSIONER of Police, Holomo Molibeli, has been labelled the “worst abuser of court processes”, who is also fond of playing “cat and mouse” games with the courts to evade accountability.

The harsh words against the police commissioner, widely seen as the most incompetent head of police ever, came in the wake of Molibeli’s latest bid to avoid being jailed for contempt of court by launching a last-minute application for the recusal of the judge dealing with the case.

Judge, Tśeliso Mokoko, had asked Molibeli to explain why he should not be jailed for 60 days for contempt of court for disobeying a court order to reinstate the bodyguards of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Beleme Lebajoa.  Molibeli has been involved in an ongoing feud with his deputy whom he has been trying to push out of the police service.

But after being granted a week’s reprieve to get a new lawyer, Molibeli made an about turn again and asked Justice Mokoko to recuse himself from the case. This prompted DCP Lebajoa’s lawyers, Rethabile Setlojoane, and Salemane Phafane KC, to launch a tirade against Molibeli.

Advocate Phafane accused Molibeli of having pre-planned to frustrate the court on the very day he knew he was going to face his comeuppance over his repeated violations of lawful court orders.

Molibeli’s recusal application, moved by his new lawyer, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane inevitably delays the contempt of court case. The court must now consider the recusal issue first before proceeding with the contempt matter.

“This contempt case was filed on 13 March 2023 and the matter was postponed at the request of the commissioner to get another lawyer. On 20 March it could still not proceed because of him. On 27 March again, he forced down the throat of this court another postponement. Why did he wait until this day of the hearing to seek another postponement?

“This matter was supposed to proceed at 8.30am but it was only at 8.35am when we were served with the recusal application. It is a trend on the part of the commissioner to wait until the 11th hour to spring a surprise which would hinder the court from continuing with its business. One would have thought that this application should have been filed last week so that we are ready to argue it now.

“He is buying time. He has played for time for 21 days. It is a norm for him to play marbles with the court. The court must mark its displeasure with his conduct by awarding wasted costs (against him) on an attorney and client scale (the highest scale) and such costs are to be paid before he is allowed to prosecute his recusal application or any other litigation related to this case. He is the worst abuser of court processes,” Adv Phafane submitted.

DCP Lebajoa had successfully petitioned Justice Mokoko on 6 March 2023 to block his removal from the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) office, and have his bodyguards reinstated pending the finalisation of his main court application. This after DCP Lebajoa had been ordered by Commissioner Molibeli on 23 February 2023, to vacate the CID office and let it be occupied by an unnamed DCP.

Commissioner Molibeli had also stripped DCP Lebajoa of the two bodyguards that are part of his benefits.

DCP Lebajoa ran back to court on 13 March 2023 after Commissioner Molibeli failed to obey Justice Mokoko’s order. This despite Advocate Setlojoane having repeatedly engaged Commissioner Molibeli’s lawyer, one Adv Mohloki, to ensure that the police boss adhered to the court order.

However, on 20 March 2023, the contempt application could not proceed before Justice Mokoko after Adv Mohloki submitted that Commissioner Molibeli, had said he wanted to use a different lawyer and therefore, asked for the postponement.

Thereafter, Justice Mokoko ordered Commissioner Molibeli to appear in person on 27 March 2023 to show cause why he could not send him to jail.

However, the contempt proceedings could still not kick-off on that day. Although Commissioner Molibeli did appear in court as ordered, he came with another state lawyer, Mafefoane Moshoeshoe, who requested another postponement of the case.

Adv Moshoeshoe said Commissioner Molibeli had just been granted the authority by the Attorney General, Rapelang Motsieloa, to appoint a private lawyer to represent him in the proceedings. State officials are represented by government lawyers from the Law Office or Attorney General’s office in civil proceedings and it is only through the discretion of Adv Motsieloa that a private lawyer may be engaged.

The matter was once again postponed from 27 March 2023 to 3 April 2023 to allow Commissioner Molibeli to engage a lawyer of his choice.

Commissioner Molibeli then engaged prominent lawyer, Tekane Maqakachane, who, on Monday, moved an application for Justice Mokoko’s recusal.

“I have been instructed to move the application for His Lordship’s recusal from these proceedings. The previous counsel had to withdraw because they could not agree with the commissioner on filing this recusal bid. I was only able to consult with the commissioner regarding this matter yesterday (Sunday) hence we are only moving it today,” Adv Maqakachane submitted.

DCP Lebajoa’s legal team then expressed its dismay at this unexpected turn of events.

Justice Mokoko asked Adv Maqakachane why they had waited until the Monday morning to file the recusal application. Adv Maqakachane said he had only been engaged the previous day. He also argued against the granting of any punitive costs against Molibeli.

The judge then put the two parties on filing terms in order to hear the recusal application first.

“The respondents (DCP Lebajoa) is to file his answering papers on 17 April 2023, the applicant (Commissioner Molibeli) to reply on 23 April. The applicant to file his heads on 27 April while the respondent will file his on 8 May and the matter will be heard on 13 June 2023. The ruling on the costs issue will be delivered on 8 June 2023,” Justice Mokoko ordered.

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