Sakoane orders state to pay pro deo lawyers

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Mohalenyane Phakela

CHIEF Justice Sakoane Sakoane has ordered the prosecution to facilitate the payment of lawyers who have been engaged by the state to represent some of the suspects in the ongoing high-profile cases.

Justice Sakoane ordered the lead prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, to attend to the matter and report to him on 13 December 2021. He issued the order in response to Advocate Napo Mafaesa’s complaint that they had not been paid for their services.

Adv Mafaesa raised the complaint during the court appearance of his client, Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa, on charges of murdering Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko during the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Lance Corporal Motsieloa is accused alongside politicians, Mothetjoa Metsing, Selibe Mochoboroane, former army commander Tlali Kamoli, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane and Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane. Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane, Lieutenant General Kamoli and Captain Nyakane have also been charged with treason. (See story on Page 6).

During their Monday court appearance, Adv Mafaesa complained that they had not been paid for their services.

“The accused have to endure lengthy hours in court and that is prejudicial to us as well because we remain unpaid. Unfortunately, we cannot quit to force the state to pay us,” Adv Mafaesa said.

Justice Sakoane then ordered Adv Abrahams to liaise with Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa to facilitate the payment of Adv Mafaesa and other lawyers.

“…The Crown will have to attend to this immediately. It is worse if the little that they are entitled to is not forthcoming. Lawyers should not be owed.

“Come back to court on 13 December 2021 and I want the complaint raised by Adv Mafaesa attended to. The Crown should bring the matter to the attention of the Attorney General and I want a clear and unequivocal answer when we meet,” Justice Sakoane ordered.

Pro deo lawyers are usually appointed to represent suspects who cannot afford their own lawyers or are without legal representation for other reasons.

There are more than 40 soldiers and police officers currently on trial for various crimes and most of them are being represented by lawyers who were appointed by the government on a pro deo basis.

Apart from Adv Mafaesa, other lawyers involved in the high-profile cases include Attorney Qhalehang Letsika and Advocates Hopolang Nathane, Zwelakhe Mda, Karabo Mohau, Letuka Molati, Kabelo Letuka, Motjantji Kao, Silas Ratau and Lepeli Molapo. It is not clear how many of them are representing their clients on a pro deo basis.

Adv Mafaesa first complained of non-payment two months ago in an interview with the Lesotho Times. He said they had not been paid since taking up the cases at different times last year.

“None of the defence lawyers who have been engaged on a pro deo basis have ever been paid since the trials started,” Adv Mafaesa said.

Pro deo lawyers are paid M400 per court appearance which is still very low. This amounts to about M8000 per month and it is not enough to pay rent and support staff at the office. The worst part is that we are still unpaid even though the money is inadequate.

“These high-profile cases are usually set down for a month and we have been told to give them priority.  This means that we have to focus on these cases while our livelihoods are being prejudiced by the non-payment of our appearance fees,” Adv Mafaesa added.

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