30 April 2018

Lesotho: Judgement Reserved in Chieftainess' Case

ACTING High Court judge, Justice Moroke Mokhesi, on Monday reserved a judgment in the case in which the Principal Chieftainess, Pontšo Mathealira, is challenging her 15 year suspension from office.

Chieftainess Mathealira is the Principal Chief of Tsikoane, Peka and Kolberg in the Leribe district.

She was last month slapped with a 15 year suspension after being found guilty of a slew of offences including refusing to issue permits to farmers to enable them to transfer their animals to the animal posts in the highlands.

Chieftainess Mathealira, who is also a senator, is challenging her suspension by a disciplinary committee that was set by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs.

The Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship, President of Senate and the Attorney General are the first to third respondents respectively.

Chieftainess Mathealira petitioned the High Court to review and set aside the disciplinary committee's proceedings on the basis that they were procedurally wrong.

She also states that the disciplinary committee did not specify the actual dates on which she committed the alleged offences.

And on Monday her lawyer, Attorney Tšabo Matooane, urged the High Court to review and set aside the proceedings and findings of the disciplinary committee.

"There is no clarity in the charges," Attorney Matooane said.

"The charges must be clear so that a person should be able to prepare her defence properly. If the charges are not couched in a correct way, they are non-existent.

"The charges were also split unnecessarily. It now means she has been punished many times unnecessarily for what could have been one thing.

"One of the charges is that she charged farmers exorbitant charges but it does not state how much she had charged and how much she was supposed to have charged.

"They also charged her for breach of practice. They should have charged her in terms of the law, not the practice," Attorney Matooane argued.

However, the respondents' lawyer, Advocate Tšeliso Molise, argued that Chieftainess Mathealira's punishment was right because she was given a fair hearing.

He however, conceded that some of the charges had been unnecessarily split.

Justice Mokhesi, reserved judgment, saying, "Judgment is reserved and you will know through the right channels when the judgement is ready".

Chieftainess Mathealira was also found guilty of bringing the office of the chief into disrepute by sending people away and refusing to give them services because they did not greet her in an "appropriate way".

She was also found guilty of failing to work with a customary committee and banning initiation schools in the area under her jurisdiction.

All the offences are said to have been committed between 2007 and 2012.

The case was heard on 24 and 25 April 2014 by a disciplinary committee that was set by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs on but the judgment was only delivered on 7 March 2018.

She was also suspended from the senate without pay.

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