Lawyer quits Mojapela’s case

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – Advocate Letuka Molati will no longer represent self-exiled Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) leader Teboho Mojapela in his demand for police to be barred from summoning him for interviews. Molati told the court yesterday that he would soon file a formal notice of withdrawal after failing to agree with his client on how to proceed with the case, saying his decision was in the best interests of justice.

“I have communicated with my client on the latest developments on the case and we agreed that I withdraw as legal representation. I will file a formal notice of withdrawal,” Molati said. Molati was advised by Justice Molefi Makara that his application needed to be amended because Mojapela had not indicated in his papers that police had charged him. The police have also denied charging the maverick lawyer-turned-businessman and indicated they have no plans of doing so soon.

Molati quoted his client saying: “It appears that there is a problem with the court to hear my case because I am suing the Prime minister.” The allegation was dismissed by justice Makara who said it was Molati’s responsibility to advise his client accordingly and maintained the court was ready to deal with any matter placed before it. A panel comprising Justices Lebohang Molete, Molefi Makara and Moroke Mokhesi heard the matter. Justice Mokhesi also told Molati that the Penal Act which has been cited in the application is not relevant to their case, a fact Molati conceded and said he had discussed with Mojapela.

Mojapela had, however, insisted that the case be heard hence his decision to renounce agency. Justice Molete directed that the prayers in the application be revisited while the case was postponed to November 13, giving Mojapela time to secure the services of another lawyer. In his application, Mojapela wants Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to publicly apologise for allegedly ordering police to secretly “whip” suspects in their custody.

He also wants Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Beleme Lebajoa to be interdicted from summoning him to police headquarters to answer a pending charge against him in which he (Mojapela) is alleged to have spoken ill of the First Lady ’Maesaiah Thabane. According to Thabane who has been cited in the application, Mojapela allegedly made unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations that his wife (’Maesaiah Thabane) had hired an assassin to eliminate him.

In his affidavit, Thabane said around October 2017 when Mojapela allegedly made the damning allegations, he and his wife were out of the country. “Upon our arrival in Kingdom of Lesotho, we were told by a spokesperson that during a rally in Mokhotlong, applicant (Mojapela) had made unfounded allegations against the First Lady. I advised my wife to report the matter to the police, which she did.

“I wish to emphasise that the First Lady reported the matter to the police as a citizen of this country who was aggrieved by the untruthful allegations that were made against her in her official capacity as the First Lady, regard being had to the fact that when the applicant allegedly made those unfounded allegations, he was referring to my wife as the First Lady and not in her personal capacity as such.“But even if she were attacked in her personal capacity as such, she still had a right to report the matter to the police concerning the unfounded allegations that were levelled against her,” Thabane’s papers show.

Mrs Thabane later reported the incident to ACP Lebajoa who is also cited in Mojapela’s application and a case of crimen injuria was opened against him. Evidence further shows that Lebajoa called Mojapela to police headquarters to hear his side of the story 12 days before the latter launched his political party. He promised to come the next day. But did not show up. Thabane claims that Mojapela kept on postponing the appointment but still promising to go to the police until he ultimately filed the present application before the High Court in February through Molati.

In his certificate of urgency Mojapela had asked the court to stop Lebajoa from interrogating him about the accusations preferred against him pending finalisation of the application. He also cited the Minister of Law, Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights Advocate Lebohang Hlaele, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, the Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane and Attorney General King’s Counsel Haae Phoofolo as respondents in the matter.

Mojapela in his prayers wanted the respondents to be interdicted from interfering with his right to participate in the affairs of his party. He also wants the court to order the respondents not to interfere with his fundamental freedoms especially those of association, movement, speech and related rights save by due process of law. “The purpose of this application is to achieve the ultimate annihilation and obliteration of the crime of crimen injuria from the statute books of Lesotho and further address the issue of violation of human rights now that mine are susceptible to violation by Policeman Beleme Lebajoa, who I surmise has heard the Prime Minister saying that police officers should whip, torture, ill-treat and exercise acts of brutality over suspects when not in the vicinity of members of the public,” Mojapela said.

He noted that it was an open secret that Thabane announced at a public gathering in Ha Matala, Maseru and during a parliamentary session that police should assault suspects whenever they are not within view of the general public. He said when Thabane made the pronouncement in 2017, he never withdrew his words, adding the assertions were thereafter published in local newspapers, radio stations and social media.

“The Prime Minister should in the premises be ordered to apologise and withdraw the said words for the reason that they fell onto the ears of police who in various instances have committed acts of brutality in times subsequent to the utterances of those words. “I submit that police killed a security officer in Maputsoe, they killed a member of public in Butha-Bothe over a dispute concerning a flash drive, they shot a male person on the buttocks in Maputsoe and killed another person in Kao, Butha-Buthe and injured two others,” Mojapela’s papers show.

The acts of brutality, he said, are legion and he did not need to mention them any further except that the deputy leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) Tšeliso Mokhosi also claimed to have been tortured by police. “It follows that I have fear that the acts of police brutality may be meted out against me by Policeman Lebajoa. He is alleged to have also tortured a fellow police officer who was a police spokesperson.

“It follows that Lebajoa has to be interdicted accordingly from interfering with me under the guise of the suspicion that I have committed a crime of crimen injuria. I submit that the crime of crimen injuria is unconstitutional as it undermines my right to freedom of speech in the circumstances of his case. “It comes as a result of the fact that I have publicly said the First Lady of Lesotho had employed an assassin to kill me. I submit that the First Lady has a remedy in law of suing for defamation instead of using the state machinery of criminal justice if at all she feels that her dignity has been imputed by my utterances,” he says.

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