No charge for ‘humiliated’ priest

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Anglican-Church-of-Lesotho-Reverend-Father-Maieane-Khaketla-1. . . as Rev Khaketla is dramatically arrested during church service

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

SUSPENDED Anglican Church priest, Reverend Father Maieane Khaketla, who was dramatically arrested on Sunday during a church service at St James and St Mary Cathedral in Maseru, has not been charged despite appearing before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Rev Khaketla was suspended by Anglican Bishop of Lesotho, Bishop Adam Mallane Taaso, in August 2011 for a speech he had made at the funeral of a fellow cleric in South Africa. After numerous bids for reinstatement failed, Rev Khaketla in July last year surprised his colleagues and congregation by reinstating himself and once again conducting Mass at St James and St Mary Cathedral.

However, on Sunday Rev Khaketla was dramatically arrested in the church’s sanctuary by police officers and escorted into an awaiting pick-up truck before being whisked to the Maseru Central Charge Office where he was locked up in a cell.

After three hours in detention, the cleric was released by the police to his lawyer, Advocate Haae Phoofolo (King’s Counsel), on condition the solicitor would avail Rev Khaketla before the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on Monday this week to be charged.

With scores of people having gathered at the Maseru Magistrate’s Court to witness his hearing on Monday, Rev Khaketla was instead referred to the office of the Maseru Urban Police Commissioner, Senior Superintendent Motlatsi Mapola, by the court authorities without any charges being preferred against him.

Advocate Phoofolo KC yesterday confirmed to the Lesotho Times his client had not been charged “as of now”.

However, Advocate Phoofolo KC said he was shown a court order dated 14 June 2012, “which appears to be a document the police used to arrest him from church on Sunday”.

“The document is a court order from 2012, directing Rev Khaketla to refrain from entering the church’s sanctuary. It is not a warrant for his arrest. The document is not even directing the police to arrest and detain Rev Khaketla,” said Advocate Phoofolo KC.

For his part, Rev Khaketla – who is also Finance Minister Dr ’Mamphono Khaketla’s brother – told this paper yesterday he was requested by Snr Supt Mapola to write “an apologetic letter asking him (Sen Supt Mapola) to withdraw the case the police have against me”.

“This request comes as a shock to me, because I don’t know of any case the police have against me. I don’t even understand why they arrested me in the first place.”

Narrating details of his arrest, the reverend said: “I went to church as usual. At 8.20 am when I arrived, I saw the church warden (name withheld) standing outside with two men. The two men rushed to me and introduced themselves as policemen. They said they had been sent by the officer commanding Maseru Central to call me to the central charge office.

“I told them I was just going into a service. I also asked them to tell their boss to write me a formal letter inviting me. The police officer retrieved a battered photocopy of a court order that had been granted to the Lord Bishop of Lesotho, Bishop Adam Mallane Taaso on 14 June 2012. It was an order barring me from entering the sanctuary at the cathedral.”

Rev Khaketla said he walked away from the two officers and joined the service. However, he noticed during the service that “church wardens rushed in and out and consulted with the dean and other members of the church council”.

“At 9.40, the church warden came up and announced to the congregation the police were present, adding they were going to do their duty and no one should be surprised.”

Rev Khaketla said a police inspector came to him at the sanctuary and asked him to walk out of the church with him.

“I told him I was in church and he should wait for me outside. A group of 10 armed police officers descended on the sanctuary and surrounded me. I told them they were in the sanctuary where they were not supposed to be, and asked them to leave. One young arrogant trooper, who apparently was their spokesman said that he was also doing God’s work by coming to arrest me.

“I asked for a warrant of arrest, and he said they were warrants enough as they were. He was very aggressive and said if I refused to come with them voluntarily, they would take me forcefully.

“I told them I was not prepared to go with them. With the dean and the church warden standing by and smiling, the trooper shouted an order and they swooped on me and carried me off, cassock, alb, stole and all, throwing me into their waiting truck. I was placed between two officers with AK47 assault rifles.

“A young girl who was standing outside was taking photographs with her phone. A police officer shouted and charged at her with a drawn pistol. She ran off and disappeared behind the church’s Training Centre. When the officer came back he was swearing. The others said he should have destroyed that phone because ‘these devils’ were going to upload them on Facebook.

“I was taken to the Maseru Central Charge Office, where I was thrown into a cell with my alb and stole in tow. The cell was typically smelly, with nothing but a stinking blanket on the floor and a 20 litre plastic bucket full of urine in one corner. I asked for a chair, but was told it was a luxury detainees were not allowed. I was notified I would appear in court the next day and stood in the cell until 12.50pm when Advocate Phoofolo arrived.”

Asked what action he intended to take after his ordeal, Rev Khaketla would only say: “Wait until that time comes.”

The Lesotho Times is in possession of Bishop Taaso’s founding affidavit in the 2012 application that led to the issuance of a court order interdicting Rev Khaketla from entering the sanctuary.

In the founding affidavit, Bishop Taaso notes on 17 April 2011, he wrote a letter of suspension to Rev Khaketla.

However, the bishop notes despite the letter, Rev Khaketla continued to “take his seat at the sanctuary during church services in total disregard of the terms of his suspension”.

“The conduct of the respondent (Rev Khaketla) is all the circumstance wrongful and threatens to undermine the established authority of the church. I have no other adequate remedy to avert the said wrongful conduct and threat save to proceed for the relief sought herein.”

Bishop Taaso also states the “irreparable harm threatened by respondent’s conduct” was of the congregation likely being “divided and polarised in circumstances that threaten the unity of the church”.

“This cannot be countenanced,” Bishop Taaso asserts.

In the court order issued by Magistrate Motebele and dated 14 June 2012, Rev Khaketla is “restrained and interdicted from violating the terms of his suspension by taking his seat at the sanctuary of the church during church services of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in the dioceses of Lesotho”.

Efforts to get in touch with Snr Supt Mapola, including calls and a visit to his office, were fruitless yesterday.

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