Lesotho: Phoofolo Sues LCD Official, Tšenolo FM for M450 000

Attorney-General Advocate Haae Phoofolo has launched a M450 000 defamation suit against Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy secretary general Lesolle Phalatsi for calling him a convicted felon during an interview on local radio station, Tšenolo FM.

Advocate Phoofolo King's Council (KC) accuses Mr Phalatsi of assaulting his reputation during a radio interview with Tšenolo FM, by alleging that the former was a convicted criminal and that he was in the habit of assisting his clients evade justice by skipping the country. The interview was done in March this year.

In his court papers filed on 7 May 2020, Adv Phoofolo said Mr Phalatsi's interview led to injurious and unlawful remarks which tainted his dignity. He attached the transcripts of that interview on his civil summons. He cites Tšenola FM and Mr Phalatsi as first and second defendants.

He said Mr Phalatsi's remarks were meant to portray him as a convicted felon who was jailed for theft of public funds. Adv Phoofolo denies stealing from the government and said the accusations was "staged in a malicious and injurious tone".

According to a transcript of the radio programme, Mr Phalatsi allegedly claimed that Adv Phoofolo was a convicted felon who was charged and convicted of embezzlement of state funds during his time at the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL).

"He was caught with his hand in a cookie jar, in a government purse wrongfully, and he got arrested on that premise and was incarcerated... " the transcript reads.

Mr Phalatsi was also quoted as having said on his release from prison, Adv Phoofolo allegedly "posed a human rights lawyer" but was also notorious for representing offenders facing heinous crimes in court. He also alleged that the majority of Adv Phoofolo's clients were also known to escape from prison and flee from the country with the assistance of their lawyer.

"It was his trademark tactic to connive with his clients to escape the country... he would cunningly advise them to skip the country... "

Mr Phalatsi made the statements during a programme called Hlokoana-la-Tsela at Tšenolo FM on 9 March.

The net effect of Mr Phalatsi's remarks, Adv Phoofolo said, was to subject him to ill-will, ridicule, disesteem and contempt in a forum that aroused wide public interest in Lesotho.

"The second defendant by both his words and or conduct made a false representation in the said platform to the effect that the plaintiff was convicted for syphoning the public funds. The defendants knew that the said pronouncement and or representation was false and ill-taken.

"The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the said representation because his public profile both as the Attorney General and a legal practitioner with a conferment of silk by the Head of State was largely compromised in the eyes of the public.

"The defendants' aim was to cause the plaintiff grave humiliation and indignity and it was premised on an injurious falsehood to the effect that he had syphoned the public funds. As a result of the wrongful and unlawful acts of the defendants he suffered considerable harm on his dignity which was adversely impinged upon," Adv Phoofolo said.

Adv Phoofolo also said Mr Phalatsi accused him of unceremoniously pronouncing himself the acting prime minister during the 1994 political upheaval and illegitimately led the country for 21 days.

"Mr Phoofolo pronounced himself the interim prime minister of Lesotho for the period of 21 days even without being elected from a pub, informal liquor store, or any formal forum... Nevertheless, he did complete the 21 days in the office of the prime devouring even all the biscuits that could be found there not even with a slightest idea on how to be a prime minister expect to go to the National Tennis Courts with the escort of the soldiers and car entourage of this nation," reads the transcript.

Adv Phoofolo said Mr Phalatsi's statements were a brazen attack meant to demean him publicly and is therefore demanding M450 000 in damages. He also wants the court to add an 18.5 percent rate on the M450 000 claim and wants Mr Phalatsi to shoulder the costs of the lawsuit at the attorney and client scale in the event of opposition.

Adv Phoofolo wants Tšenolo FM and Mr Phalatsi to respond by tomorrow or "judgment may be entered against them without further notice". Adv Phoofolo is being represented by Attorney Monaheng Rasekoai.

More From: Lesotho Times

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