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Axe hovers over DPP

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE government is mulling ousting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leaba Thetsane (King’s Counsel) amid indications it is not happy with his decision not to oppose bail for murder accused former Defence minister Tšeliso Mokhosi.

Well-placed sources told the Lesotho Times this week that the government was considering fast-tracking Advocate Thetsane’s retirement as he was seen as an obstacle to the ongoing drive to prosecute people accused of murder and other serious crimes.

Adv Thetsane is expected to retire next year upon reaching the 60-year mandatory retirement age. The DPP is mandated with the prosecution of criminal offences.

Adv Thetsane’s relationship with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has been fraught over the years, with the premier having asked the DPP to retire along with Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe (KC) in 2014.

Advocates Thetsane and Makhethe successfully challenged Dr Thabane’s “show cause” letters in the courts of law.

Adv Makhethe eventually retired last month, ahead of his reaching the 60-year mandatory retirement age on 13 November this year.

With the Dr Thabane-led government committing to pursue justice for the many unsolved killings that were not prosecuted in the preceding years, Adv Thetsane has been increasingly seen as an obstacle to that objective.

“Adv Thetsane is regarded by many as a remnant of the previous government led by former premier Pakalitha Mosisili,” said the sources.

“Given that these prosecutions directly affect some members of the previous regime, such as Ntate Mokhosi, Adv Thetsane is seen as working at cross purposes with the government.”

Dr Thabane’s four-party coalition government was installed after the Dr Mosisili-led administration lost the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections.

Dr Mosisili’s Democratic Congress and six other parties that constituted the former government could only muster 47 seats collectively, which were 14 short of the 61-seat threshold to form government. For its part, the Dr Thabane-led alliance had 63 seats.

The government’s discontent with Adv Thetsane was evident during last Saturday’s memorial event to commemorate the three-year anniversary since Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko’s death in Qoaling.

Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was killed on 30 August 2014 during a predawn Lesotho Defence Force raid on three Maseru police stations which the military claimed was meant to foil a Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) plan to arm civilians.

However, the LMPS has vehemently denied the allegation, with Dr Thabane, who fled the country ahead of the raid, describing the LDF’s special operation as an attempted coup.

In his remarks during the memorial, Acting Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli directed his ire at Adv Thetsane for not opposing Mr Mokhosi’s bail application last Friday.

This was after Mr Mokhosi was charged with murdering Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng along with four police officers.

PC Khetheng died under mysterious circumstances after being arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016.

Mr Mokhosi was released on Monday and now awaits trial.

“We are ready to take on Ramahloko’s killers and all others whose cases have been unsolved,” said Acting Commissioner Molibeli.

“But it is very frustrating to see that there is somebody who is always ready to release the suspects once they have been brought before the courts of law.

“There is somebody who is busy releasing suspects at the courts of law after we have laboured to investigate them. Each time we oppose bail citing the concern that the suspects are flight risks, he releases them.”

Acting Commissioner Molibeli continued: “He (Adv Thetsane) keeps telling us that Lesotho and South Africa have an extradition agreement and yet to date we have been trying to find (Habofanoe) Ntsie to bring him home to come and answer for his crimes.”

Ntsie dramatically escaped from the High Court during lunch-time on 26 March 2012 before Justice Maseforo Mahase had finished reading her judgment in a case in which he was charged with the murder of Habaka Ma­hao and Souru Masupha in 2004 at Lancer’s Gap in Sehlabeng.

Ntsie was later convicted in absentia of the two murders. He has been in South Africa ever since, and remains a wanted man in Lesotho.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli said the DPP had ensured the release of Mr Mokhosi despite their protestation.

“He (Adv Thetsane) released someone even though we opposed his bail application,” he said.

“The police service is like a fishery; if the pond water is dirty the fish will not reproduce. But if the water is clean enough, then the fish will surely reproduce in a great way.”

Adv Thetsane refused to comment on the remarks, when contacted by this publication.

“As you know, I don’t comment in the media and that’s my principle,” he said.