Lesotho: Phoofolo in Fresh Fight With 'Disrespectful' Mahao

4 November 2020

There is no love lost between Attorney General Haae Phoofolo and Law and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao after the latter's All Basotho Convention (ABC) party pressured Prime Minister Moeketsi into effectively firing the former by sending him on terminal leave pending the expiry of his contract in February 2021.

This Tuesday, Adv Phoofolo rejected Prof Mahao's request for a meeting to discuss his High Court application challenging Dr Majoro's decision to send him on terminal leave on 14 September 2020.

Professor Mahao had written to Adv Phoofolo on Tuesday requesting that they meet that same day over the latter's application to nullify Dr Majoro's decision to fire him.

This after last Thursday's High Court ruling granting Adv Phoofolo an interim order allowing him to return to office pending the finalisation of his application for a final order allowing him to remain in office until the expiry of his contract. Judge Molefi Makara granted the order in response to Adv Phoofolo's application filed on 6 October 2020.

Dr Majoro, King Letsie III, the Office of Attorney General and Acting Attorney General Tšebang Putsoane are first to fourth respondents respectively in the lawsuit.

Justice Makara also gave Dr Majoro until yesterday to "show cause", if any, why his decision to oust Adv Phoofolo should not be permanently stayed. It was not clear if Dr Majoro had complied with Justice Makara's directive by yesterday.

However, a day earlier on Tuesday, Prof Mahao wrote to Adv Phoofolo inviting him for "consultations".

"I would like to meet with you to consult sequel to the on-going case between your good self and the Right Honourable the Prime Minister. I will appreciate if the meeting can be today, 27 October 2020, in my office. Your usual cooperation is always appreciated," Prof Mahao wrote.

Prof Mahao yesterday confirmed that he had indeed written to Adv Phoofolo.

"Why are you asking about this matter when it is between me and Phoofolo? It is true that I wrote to Phoofolo. We didn't meet because I am in Mantšonyane today (Wednesday). We might meet tomorrow (today)," Prof Mahao said.

However, Adv Phoofolo said he snubbed the invitation because of the degrading manner in which the communication was addressed and delivered to him.

"I didn't honour that invitation. Firstly, I took exception at the manner in which that communication was delivered to me in some open brown envelope which didn't even have the name of the addressee on it.

"Secondly the minister (Mahao) deliberately addressed me in the most demeaning fashion as 'Mr Haae Phoofolo'. I am an advocate of the courts of Lesotho and South Africa and a senior advocate for that matter.

"In our profession, and the minister knows this, we show recognition and respect by addressing each other officially. In official communication we address each other as advocates and King's Counsel (KC) at the end of our names where it is deserved. The minister has been recognising this fact since time immemorial. So why does he see the need to change now if not for a sinister motive? If I don't deserve his minimum respect, he too doesn't deserve mine either.

"Will he be happy if I address him simply as Mr Nqosa Mahao from today? Over and above all, in my position as the attorney general and a member of parliament, I have the title of 'Honourable AG' whether or not Mr Mahao likes it. That is the protocol in this country and anywhere else in the world. For the avoidance of doubt and for clarity's sake, I should be addressed by all and sundry as Honourable Adv Haae Phoofolo KC," Adv Phoofolo said.

The tough-talking Adv Phoofolo said in any event the time for negotiations passed the very day he dragged Dr Majoro to court and henceforth, all parties must wait for the court's decision.

"The time for negotiating anything passed when I took the matter to court. Once the matter is in court all concerned parties are at the mercy of the courts. Depending on the outcome of the court processes, the whole matter can then be revisited. Physically I'm still not in the office. But officially I am in office till the rule (interim order) is either confirmed or discharged," he said without explaining why he had not gone back to work in the aftermath of the interim order.

"Another reason why I did not attend the meeting (with Mahao) is that although I didn't understand what was meant by consulting with me, I found it unacceptable to be called to discuss with a person that I know subscribes to the unlawful action taken against me by the Prime Minister on issues concerning my case.

"What different result would he, in his capacity as minister, achieve in the matter because I don't report to him in my work. I report to the prime minister," Adv Phoofolo said.

Prof Mahao is the deputy leader of the ruling ABC which last month petitioned Dr Majoro to dismiss Adv Phoofolo allegedly because at 73 years, he was now "too old and unable to cope with the rigours of the job".

ABC sources said the party was also angry with him over his role in the attempts to appoint five new judges.

Adv Phoofolo had met with Acting Chief Justice 'Maseforo Mahase on 20 August 2020 in their capacity as members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and recommended the appointment of five new judges namely Deputy Attorney General Tšebang Putsoane, lawyers Tšabo Matooane, Mokhele Matsau, Moneuoa Kopo and Maliepollo Makhetha.

Adv Phoofolo and Justice Mahase were accused of making the recommendations without informing Prof Mahao as the responsible minister.

ABC secretary general Lebohang Hlaele subsequently confirmed to the Lesotho Times that the party's NEC had indeed recommended the ouster of Adv Phoofolo and Justice Mahase.

He however, said the NEC's recommendation for their ouster was purely on the grounds of "competency issues" and nothing else.

More From: Lesotho Times

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