16 June 2017

Lesotho: High Court Deputy Registrar in Hiding

Photo: Flickr
Gavel

THE Deputy Registrar of the High Court, Mojela Shale, has gone into hiding after being allegedly grilled by three police officers for allegedly leaking the draft interim audit report for the High Court and Court of Appeal, which revealed that Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara was renting a house belonging to Justice Teboho Moiloa for a monthly fee of M27 000.

Advocate Shale blamed his boss, Acting Registrar of the High Court, Lesitsi Mokeke for orchestrating his woes by "sending the police officers" interrogate him, adding he went into hiding because he feared for his life.

The draft internal audit report was submitted to the office of the registrar on 17 March 2017 and subsequently went viral on social media, revealing among other things, the controversial accommodation deal for the chief justice.

The Acting Registrar of the High Court, Lesitsi Mokeke subsequently held a press conference last month where he defended the chief justice's accommodation deal and expressed concern over the leaking of the draft report.

Mr Mokeke said the deal was above board, adding he would "get to the bottom of the matter" to find out how the document was leaked from the High Court.

And in the latest turn of events, Adv Shale this week told the Lesotho Times that he had been forced into hiding on Tuesday after Mr Mokeke allegedly sent police officers to interrogate him at his office about the leaked report.

"It was between 10am and 11am when I saw three police officers in plain clothes standing at the door of my office," Adv Shale said, adding, "I invited them in and offered seats".

"They told me they were investigating the leaking of the report from our offices.

"I told them that the issue of the report came to my attention but I could not say anything beyond that because they had no right to interfere with matters of the judiciary in terms of the constitution which provides for the separation of powers.

"I told them that the judiciary was independent of the executive and I did not have to explain anything to them because I was not answerable to the executive in terms of the Administration of the Judiciary Act of 2011, unless they produced a court order."

Adv Shale said his responses were not well received by the officers, adding the exchanges became heated to the point where "one of them stood up and roamed about as he kept on saying I was not cooperating with them".

He said the interrogation lasted a long time as he was determined to stand his ground on the independence of the judiciary.

"But I blame the registrar because these police officers showed me a letter that indicated that the registrar asked for police assistance to investigate the matter and there they were investigating me.

"What surprises me most is that I am part of the management and I should have known if the registrar intended to invite police to investigate the matter. He made the decision alone."

Adv Shale said the registrar's move to have him investigated had soured relations between him and his boss.

"I have lost confidence in him and I don't trust him anymore.

"I understand the same police officers interviewed one of the deputy registrars and the registrar's executive secretary.

"But I cannot allow it happen to me. I know my rights and I had to flee because they told me they would be back the next day.

He said he decided to go into hiding because he did not "feel safe anymore".

"I am now afraid of them considering the recent unpleasant reports about police that include the disappearance of a police officer whose case is still pending before the High Court."

This was in reference to a pending case concerning Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng who allegedly disappeared from Hlotse Police Charge Office in March 2016.

However, Mr Mokeke yesterday told this publication that there was nothing wrong with the police investigation.

He however, said it was not true that Adv Shale was not aware that police would be invited to investigate the matter.

"I never concealed the fact that the report was leaked from my office.

"I am not trained in investigations and the police are professionals so I had to contact them to investigate the matter. Indeed, I made it clear that I would get to the bottom of the matter.

Mr Mokeke said he had also been questioned along with his secretary, Realeboha Makamane.

"I told all everyone including him (Adv Shale) that I would invite police to investigate the matter. He never said anything when I personally told him about the intended investigation.

He said public officers were sworn to secrecy and it was therefore important to establish how the document was leaked.

"After the investigation, we will deal with the matter internally."

He also dismissed claims that members of the judiciary could not be investigated by police, saying, "No one is above the law in this country".

Asked if he was aware that Adv Shale was in hiding, he said, "I only heard from the rumour mill that he is hiding".

The draft report raised eyebrows with claims in some quarters that renting out a house to one's boss was potentially a case of conflict of interest.

The house in question is located in the Hills View suburb of Maseru.

The final audit report is yet to be released.

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