Phoofolo re­sponds to DC youths

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

THE Demo­cratic Congress (DC) Youth League has con­demned state­ments by sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions ex­press­ing con­cern at the coun­try’s se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion. In a state­ment ti­tled, ‘Who is fool­ing who?’ the youths lam­bast the or­gan­i­sa­tions for “choos­ing to wage a clan­des­tine war of media state­ments in sup­port of the dis­ori­en­tated op­po­si­tion in an at­tempt to lend cre­dence to clearly base­less ut­ter­ances and at­ten­tion-seek­ing po­lit­i­cal stunts of the op­po­si­tion cadre.”

The youths then listed sev­eral al­leged hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions dur­ing the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) and Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) coali­tion gov­ern­ment, which lost power af­ter the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap elec­tions, yet “these self-pro­claimed cus­to­di­ans of hu­man rights and good gov­er­nance were silent”.

Ad­vo­cate Haae Phoofolo (King’s Coun­sel) ( pic­tured) was Jus­tice, Law and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs Min­is­ter un­der that gov­ern­ment headed by ABC leader Thomas Tha­bane, and speaks with Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane about the DC’S ac­cu­sa­tions.

LT: The DC Youth League has ac­cused the pre­vi­ous coali­tion gov­ern­ment, par­tic­u­larly the ABC as the lead­ing party in that ad­min­is­tra­tion, of sev­eral “un­law­ful” acts. As the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for law and or­der in that gov­ern­ment, and also an ABC mem­ber, what is your opin­ion on this state­ment?

Phoofolo: What I am do­ing is that I am not nec­es­sar­ily de­fend­ing the record of the gov­ern­ment which I served as min­is­ter. But there are cer­tain things which were said by those youths whose record must be set straight be­cause they are mis­lead­ing to the public. In fact, they are un­nec­es­sar­ily tar­nish­ing the im­age of a gov­ern­ment that I served, par­tic­u­larly my­self as a min­is­ter of that gov­ern­ment. The rea­son why I am set­ting the record straight is although I am no longer in gov­ern­ment, I have to keep my pro­file clean be­cause now I am serv­ing the public. Who knows, I might serve the coun­try again in fu­ture?

LT: Let’s start with the state­ment by which the youths said the 2009 coup at­tempt was spon­sored by the ABC where for­eign mer­ce­nar­ies at­tacked State House “with in­tent to kill a sit­ting Prime Min­is­ter (DC leader Dr Pakalitha Mo­sisili). What is your re­sponse to this?

Phoofolo: I don’t know that the at­tempted coup was spon­sored by ABC mer­ce­nar­ies, but what I know is I de­fended those mer­ce­nar­ies in court. No such ev­i­dence ever came out in such a court of law from the crown that the ABC had any­thing to do with that at­tack. I just want to put the record straight. I was de­fend­ing the mer­ce­nar­ies. No such ev­i­dence ever came, ei­ther in the trial by any state wit­ness, par­tic­u­larly the ac­com­plice wit­ness. You know an ac­com­plice wit­ness is a per­son who does things with you and goes and con­fesses in a court of law. So even though I say I do not know that the ABC spon­sored that in­ci­dent, that ev­i­dence should have come out in court, if that was the case. The only per­son who was men­tioned in that trial, a Mosotho, was Ntate Jessie Ra­makatane. He was men­tioned by an ac­com­plice wit­ness as hav­ing been the per­son who re­cruited them. And you would re­call that among those peo­ple there is no sin­gle Mosotho. They are all Mozam­bi­cans and South Africans. No Mosotho among the ac­cused. Ntate Ra­makatane is the only Mosotho men­tioned and it was never said of him that he was work­ing for the ABC, BNP or any other po­lit­i­cal party. It was never even said that he was do­ing it for the ABC when his name was men­tioned. I am re­fer­ring to his name be­cause all I am say­ing is that dur­ing ev­i­dence, it was dis­closed by the ac­com­plice on record.

LT: So if there was no such ev­i­dence, where do the DC youths get such in­for­ma­tion from?

Phoofolo: I don’t know what other ev­i­dence they have. But if they do not have ev­i­dence, their state­ment is defam­a­tory. And you can de­fame any per­son or or­gan­i­sa­tion. You don’t de­fame peo­ple only. You can de­fame an or­gan­i­sa­tion like the ABC. And I am not say­ing this be­cause I am an ABC mem­ber, but be­cause I am a lawyer.

LT: The youths also say the “Abc-led gov­ern­ment sub­se­quently is­sued a blan- ket amnesty to per­pe­tra­tors of these acts of ter­ror­ism…

Phoofolo: The ABC never gave amnesty to the per­pe­tra­tors of this act. The per­pe­tra­tors are lan­guish­ing in jail right now. As I am talk­ing to you they are serv­ing jail sen­tences. And this trial took place dur­ing the ABCled gov­ern­ment. The ABC never said stop that trial. Ac­tu­ally, the Abc-led gov­ern­ment made sure the trial con­tin­ued. I re­call when we were dis­cussing this in cab­i­net, whether or not these peo­ple should be given amnesty, cab­i­net was unan­i­mous that acts like these, if peo­ple who com­mit them are given amnesty, it means they will do it again and again.

Peo­ple must know that to at­tack the prime min­is­ter’s res­i­dence or any gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tion, is trea­son. And they must be dealt with so that they don’t re­peat it. And you should re­call we are talk­ing about the peo­ple who at­tacked Ntate Pakalitha Mo­sisili – leader of the Demo­cratic Congress, not the ABC – in 2009. To say they have been given blan­ket amnesty, is false. The youths are so mis­in­formed. I think they are mix­ing up is­sues, if at all they know what they are talk­ing about.

LT: And why do you think they are de­lib­er­ately mix­ing up is­sues?

Phoofolo: What I think they are re­fer­ring to here is the com­ing back to Le­sotho of Ntate Mokher­ane Tsat­sanyane, who is now Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, Ntate Khotso Le­bak­eng, Ntate Litšitso Seka­mane, Ntate Thabiso Ma­hase and Ntate Thabo Than­tši who left the coun­try and sought asy­lum in South Africa dur­ing the 2007 po­lit­i­cal cri­sis. When they were in South Africa, they were sub­se­quently ar­rested and I, again as a prac­tis­ing lawyer, had to go to re­lease them in Van­der­bijl Park, Vereenig­ing. They had been ar­rested un­der pre­text they faced some charges in Le­sotho. But there was no proof of that, which was why they were re­leased. The fol­low­ing year, they were ar­rested again and ap­peared in the Beth­le­hem Mag­is­trate’s Court for ex­tra­di­tion. It is there that the Di­rec­tor of Public Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) of Le­sotho de­clared that there were no charges pend­ing against those peo­ple in Le­sotho. So even if these youths are mix­ing up is­sues, they are still not telling the truth.

LT: That be­ing the case, why were these gen­tle­men not com­ing home?

Phoofolo: They still feared for their lives be­cause of po­lit­i­cal is­sues. But there were no charges against them. Only when the coali­tion gov­ern­ment of the ABC, BNP and LCD came to power in 2012, were they will­ing to come back home. I re­mem­ber well that when they came home, there were eye­brows raised from the then op­po­si­tion par­ties. And then I went on air and ex­plained that these peo­ple were never ever charged with any­thing in Le­sotho. If ever there were charges, I said the po­lice should ar­rest them forth­with be­cause they were here now. And they were not ar­rested. Ntate Mokher­ane is even an MP now. And I still chal­lenge the Ntate Mo­sisili-led gov­ern­ment to ar­rest those peo­ple if there are charges.

The DPP cer­ti­fied long ago that there were no charges against them. If there was any crime they com­mit­ted, maybe it was to come back dur­ing the Abc-led gov­ern­ment. I want to also add that their com­ing back was thor­oughly dis­cussed by cab­i­net. It was not a one­man thing. I was ac­tu­ally the one mov­ing it for dis­cus­sion in cab­i­net. And there was no amnesty granted to them be­cause there were no charges against them in the first place. Tell me, if Ntate Tom (Thomas Tha­bane) and the other two op­po­si­tion lead­ers come back into the coun­try af­ter flee­ing for their lives to South Africa, would they say they have now been given amnesty?

LT: What ex­actly is amnesty? Who gets it?

Phoofolo: Amnesty is done through a par­lia­men­tary law. It is a leg­is­la­tion. Be­fore any­one is granted amnesty, there has to be a law passed through the aus­pices of par­lia­ment to ef­fect it. Dur­ing our ten­ure in gov­ern­ment, no law was ever en­acted to grant amnesty to any­body, in­clud­ing these peo­ple. And we could not do any­thing that was not sanc­tioned by par­lia­ment. Par­lia­ment didn’t have to sanc­tion any­thing for those peo­ple be­cause they had never been charged or con­vict-

I don’t know whether Scott is an ABC sup­porter and it is not my con­cern. My con­cern is that he be brought to jus­tice if he has bro­ken the law. And that is where my con­cern was even when I was a min­is­ter. It has al­ways been my con­cern that he should come to Le­sotho to an­swer for his crimes in a law­ful, pro­ce­dural man­ner. That has al­ways been my grounds and many peo­ple failed to agree with me on that fac­tor, even my col­leagues in cab­i­net. They thought my in­ten­tion was to pro­tect Scott. They ac­cused me of be­ing too artis­tic and too le­gal about it.

But I just laid down the cor­rect pro­ce­dure. To say he was re­leased by the ABC gov­ern­ment, again is false. It is again another ex­am­ple of at­tempt­ing to de­fame the ABC as a po­lit­i­cal party. As the then min­is­ter, I was given a re­port by Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice of­fi­cers, which only in­di­cated that Scott could have es­caped through the win­dow. That was the re­port I re­ceived and sub­se­quently I tabled it in par­lia­ment. It was then dis­cussed and I faced a bar­rage of se­ri­ous ques­tions about that re­port.

LT: It is fur­ther noted by the DC youths that Scott had been liv­ing “a com­fort­able spon­sored life in Dur­ban…

Phoofolo: I don’t know about Scott liv­ing a cushy life in Dur­ban. As a min­is­ter then, I didn’t know Scott was liv­ing a lav­ish, cushy spon­sored life. But the of­fi­cial ver­sion of the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho of that time is that it re­ceived a re­port that Scott had been ar­rested in Dur­ban and would go through ex­tra­di­tion pro­cesses. Al­le­ga­tions are be­ing made that Scott’s le­gal fees were be­ing paid by the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho, of our time. I want to ex­plain this again to the na­tion that if any money has to go out to pay for le­gal fees, it has to be au­tho­rised by the At­tor­ney Gen­eral af­ter a re­quest by the DPP.

No such re­quest was ever made or granted by the of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral for the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho on be­half of Scott. This again is ma­li­cious and a fab­ri­ca­tion by the youths. And I was sur­prised that this al­le­ga­tion was even made by the cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter while on cam­paigns for elec­tions prior to the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 polls. I re­spect Ntate Mo­sisili, but he was also not telling the truth. The way I see it is that they are al­leg­ing that the money was not nec­es­sar­ily be­ing sent through proper chan­nels by the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho.

They are say­ing that Scott was be­ing paid for through the Dur­ban Con­sulate in Kwazulu-natal. But I can­not de­fend this be­cause I don’t know what ev­i­dence they have. But that be­ing the case, the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs should know. I must also add that we called for a spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion and some com­mis­sion of en­quiry, re­gard­ing Scott. The com­mis­sion was led by Ad­vo­cate Karabo Mo­hau KC, and he came out with a view that Scott must have been re­leased by some of the con­sta­bles there. Ad­vo­cate Mo­hau KC, af­ter his in­ves­ti­ga­tion, came up with the re­port show­ing that there was no way Scott could have es­caped through the win­dow. He must have es­caped through the help of the war­dens. Ad­vo­cate Mo­hau KC rec­om­mended fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and we didn’t take his word lightly.

Ad­vo­cate Haae Phoofolo (King’s coun­sel)

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