CHIEF Justice Sakoane Sakoane has temporarily barred the National Security Service (NSS) from confiscating the mobile phones of Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe.
Mr Mofomobe ran to the Constitutional Court on Friday after the NSS, and police officers raided his Thetsane home on Wednesday night demanding his cell phones.
The security officers were executing a warrant which had been authorised by Prime Minister Sam Matekane, and issued by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Limpho Tau.
The warrant, issued in terms of section 26 of the National Security Service Act 1998, directed the NSS officers to seize the mobile phones of Mr Mofomobe and “conduct an investigation on such mobile phones and make copies of any information contained therein which has a bearing on the functions of the Service (NSS)”.
However, Mr Mofomobe refused to hand over his mobile phones and instead opted to challenge the warrant before the Constitutional Court.
His lawyer, Christopher Lephuthing, appeared before Justice Sakoane on Friday to motivate the urgency of Mr Mofomobe’s case and seek an interim interdict against the confiscation of the firebrand politician’s phones.
The respondents in the matter are Prime Minister Sam Matekane, Director NSS Phello Ralenkoane and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa. They were represented by Avocate Letsie Moshoeshoe who did not oppose the urgency of the case.
Justice Sakoane thus issued the interim order barring the NSS officers from seizing the phones of Mr Mofomobe pending the finalisation of his constitutional application against the whole move.
Mr Mofomobe’s case will now be heard by a panel of three High Court judges sitting as a constitutional bench on 5 June 2023, provided the other two judges will be available.
Mr Mofomobe, in his main application, labels Mr Matekane a dictator over the latter’s move to seize his phones. He therefore wants the Constitutional Court to outlaw section 25 of the National Security Service Act 1998 which Mr Matekane used to try and justify the seizure.
He says Mr Matekane should have sought a court order to justify the seizure of his phones. He had not done so, preferring to deploy “dictatorial powers” to confiscate an opponent’s property.
Mr Mofomobe accuses Mr Matekane of being a tin pot dictator. Only in entrenched dictatorships could a prime minister seek to seize another person’s phones without a court order, the BNP leader argues.
Mr Mofomobe states there were laws in place that the premier could have used in the courts to compel mobile phone companies to gain access to his phone records. Mr Matekane had opted not to go that route, preferring to issue his own warrant, effectively making him the jury and executioner. That was illegal and unconstitutional, Mr Mofomobe contends. He insists the prime minister had sought to infringe upon his constitutional right to privacy, among other things.
Mr Mofomobe claimed he was being victimised for openly accusing Mr Matekane’s government of corruption. He said he had spoken openly about how politicians and officials in the Matekane government had been allocating tenders to themselves. He also accused Mr Matekane of hiring unqualified people to fill key state positions.
Accusing Mr Matekane of cronyism, Mr Mofomobe said people who could never be employed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) because of their lack of qualifications were now finding their way into government because of Mr Matekane’s penchant for “cronyism”.
He also claims in his court papers that the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) government had not fulfilled any of the promises it made prior to the October 2022 general elections. Mr Mofomobe said he was thus being victimised for his outspokenness against the RFP.
He vowed he would not budge and would continue speaking openly against what he describes as the gross incompetence and corruption of the Matekane government. He wants a commission of inquiry established to probe corruption and “state capture” by Mr Matekane’s cronies. He insists the prime minister has been dishing out tenders and favours to his cronies. He doesn’t cite any evidence in his court papers though.
He also accuses the director-general of the NSS of being used by Mr Matekane’s government to pursue and persecute the premier’s political opponents.
“I have established that the DG-NSS…… is ill-advising the PM in making him believe my cell phones will assist him investigate crimes……There are no grounds advanced for seizing my cell phones…,” states Mr Mofomobe in his court papers.
He says he had therefore refused to hand over his phones and told the officers who turned up at his home that their actions were illegal.
In terms of final reliefs sought, Mr Mofomobe wants the Constitutional Court to issue an order declaring that the attempt to seize his phones is unlawful and in violation of Section 17 of the constitution.