THE director general of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Advocate Mahlomola Manyokole, is off the hook after Law and Justice Minister Professor Nqosa Mahao abandoned his quest to oust him from office.
The two were expected to fight it out on Tuesday in a potentially bruising legal battle after Adv Manyokole filed an urgent High Court application to stop Prof Mahao from advising Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to suspend him pending dismissal.
He filed the court papers last Friday shortly after receiving a letter from Prof Mahao demanding that he "show cause" why he should not be suspended pending the institution of a tribunal to probe his fitness to remain in office. He had been given up to Monday 14 December 2020 to respond but he opted to pre-empt any action against him by seeking a High Court interdict.
The case was expected to be heard on Tuesday by Justice Molefi Makara. However, it was not to be after the two sides' lawyers informed the judge that they had opted for an out of court settlement.
Adv Manyokole is represented by Adv Tekane Maqakachane while Prof Mahao and other respondents are represented by Attorney Kuili Ndebele. The other two respondents are Dr Majoro and the Attorney General, Adv Haae Phoofolo.
"The respondents opted to withdraw their ('show cause') letter and we agreed that we settle out of court," Adv Maqakachane told the Lesotho Times soon after appearing before Justice Makara.
"We are now going to engage in a negotiation process and we will present the agreement to Justice Makara for it to made into an order of the court."
Efforts to obtain comment from Adv Manyokole, Mr Ndebele and Prof Mahao proved fruitless as their mobile phones rang unanswered yesterday.
It is not clear why Prof Mahao opted to withdraw the "show cause" letter.
But a fire-spitting Adv Manyokole had threatened to name and shame senior government officials in the current Majoro administration whom he alleged were corrupt and were being "protected" by both Dr Majoro and Prof Mahao from being probed.
In his court papers, Adv Manyokole had described Prof Mahao and Dr Majoro as "crusaders of corruption".
He claimed their "insatiable desire" to oust him was borne out of their need to "immunise themselves and other crusaders of corruption and corrupt activities from such investigation and due process of the law".
"Their (Prof Mahao and Dr Majoro)'s concerns derive simply from the fact that the 1st applicant (Manyokole) has mounted several criminal investigations concerning or involving high ranking government officials and private persons, one way or the other connected or of interest to the respondents," Adv Manyokole alleged.
He said ever since his July 2019 appointment by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, the DCEO, under his stewardship, had been busy investigating economic offences and other cases of corruption.
He said the DCEO's investigative net "was cast wide and drew in its mighty pull, crusaders and proponents of corruption and economic offences" who have always thought themselves to beyond the DCEO's reach. He said even high-ranking officials in the current Majoro-led government, which succeeded the Thabane administration in May 2020, are under investigation for corruption and economic offences, hence the bid to oust him.
"It is these investigations which have touched the nerve centre and cradle of the dark world of the corrupt. The political machinery started rolling in an attempt to protect the underhand activities and to ensure that the dark world of the corrupt is not disrupted.
"Consequently, moves have been made to have me removed from the helm of the DCEO. I am in possession of secret information and intelligence (and which I beg leave of the honourable court not to disclose the details and contents thereto as the matters are related are sensitive and privileged issues) that some of those who are basking in the comfort of the nefarious criminality aforesaid have suggested to the government that all means must be adopted and employed to ensure my removal from the office of the DCEO," Adv Manyokole stated.
Prof Mahao had wanted Adv Manyokole fired over a litany of charges including alleged misconduct, incompetence, corruption and failure to prosecute former Finance Minister 'Mamphono Khaketla for alleged corruption.
In his 11 December 2020 letter, Prof Mahao had demanded that the DCEO boss "show cause" why he should not be suspended to pave way for the appointment of a tribunal to determine whether or not he should not be dismissed over all the allegations levelled against him.
He said Adv Manyokole's appointment to the DCEO's top job had "placed a heavy burden on your shoulders given the turbulent phase which the Kingdom of Lesotho is experiencing of rampant corruption and economic offences staged by senior politicians and government bureaucrats at times in collusion with private citizens".
Among other things, he accuses Adv Manyokole of failing to prosecute several high-profile corruption cases including that of former Finance Minister 'Mamphono Khaketla.
Dr Khaketla served as finance minister in the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties' government from 2015 to 2017.
Together with businessman Thabo Napo, they stand accused of soliciting a M4 Million bribe from representatives of the Lebelonyane Fleet Solutions Joint Venture (JV) in exchange for favourable consideration in a multimillion-maloti vehicle fleet tender. The case is pending before the High Court.
Prof Mahao said even when cases have been prosecuted none of them have been finalised to date. He essentially accused the DCEO boss of gross incompetence for not achieving any single successful conviction since his appointment, notwithstanding the rampant corruption in Lesotho.
However, Adv Manyokole hit back by arguing that Prof Mahao's "show cause" letter was "a veiled ploy to actuate the corrupt world's attempts to remove me illegally from the office of director general of the DCEO and to feed into the insatiable desires of the corrupt to continue to swindle the resources of the Kingdom with impunity and pave an easy road for the appointment of a complaint candidate who will be a hireling in the hands of the powers that be".