…faces M3m suit
The High Commissioner of Lesotho to London, Rethabile Mahlompho Mokaeane is set to face a hefty M3million fine for slanderous allegations against a Lineo Palime, a diplomat station at the same mission.
According to High Court papers, the charges are likely to be incorporated with contempt of court after the envoy failed to react to the litigations since she was served in May this year.
Court papers seen by this paper this week, indicate that the High Commissioner had backbitten her colleague whom she badmouthed at a local radio station when she was quizzed about the maladministration of government funds at the consulate.
“The plaintiff instituted an action against the defendants in which the actions she claimed for damages of defamation of her character. The summons was duly served on the defendants. The first defendant has however not entered her intentions to oppose the matter in terms of the rules.
“The first defendant was served with the copy of summons at her place of employment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 27, 2021 wherein the papers were received by the Public Secretary and on May 28, 2021 the Ministry sent her an email wherein the copy of summons was attached as evidenced by “LP2,” the court papers read.
“In terms of the High Court rules 1980, Rule 19, a party to an action is intended to serve the other with his intention to oppose the matter within seven days of receipt as stated in the summons. The defendant has defaulted to this as it has been almost three months since her receipt of summons and she has not entered any pleadings.
“Defamation is the unlawful and intentional publication by a person of matter which injures the reputation of another and the elements are (a) conduct in the form of publication, (b) wrongfulness, (c) fault, in the form of intention or animus injury, (d) causation and (e) harm in the form of injury to the plaintiff’s reputation.
“The aforesaid statement was per se defamatory to the plaintiff and was wrong. The statement was made by the first defendant with the intention to defame the plaintiff and injure her reputation. The statement was understood by the addresses and was intended by the defendant to mean that the plaintiff is dishonest and is involved in corruption in stealing the government funds for her own personal use,” the papers reads.
It was also referenced by the case between Mahomed and Jassiem that the court said, “In deciding whether the above statement is defamatory, I must consider how the statement was understood in its context by an ordinary reader and whether it lowered the esteem of the plaintiff in the estimation of an ordinary reader.”
The plaintiff, as the diplomat is entrusted with the responsibilities that such a position entails. To suggest that she is misusing or stealing the government funds for her own personal gain is to lower her in the estimation of people in her work environment and in society in general and it is defamatory.
Palime sought the court’s intervention that the latter tainted her name, thus must be charged a whooping M3million as damage for defamation. According to a conversation attached, Mokaeane told the radio presenter that the public servants are all out to stealing the government’s purse and using the money for their own personal agendas.
This is the matter that had the squabbling envoys dragged before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to find resolution to the unending tiffs at the English consulate earlier this year.
“It is trite law that the award for damages is mainly at the discretion of the court and in so deciding the court will look at the previous cases and how the reputation of the plaintiff has been affected by the broadcast.
“Palime is hereby institute action against the defendant in which action the plaintiff judgment against them, (a) payment of the sum of three million Maloti to the plaintiff (M3, 000, 000. 00) as damages for defamation.
“Interest at the rate of 18.5% per annum, costs of suit at attorney and own client,” the paper said.
“On or around April 19, 2021, the first defendant made some malicious statements concerning the plaintiff on an interview on a local radio station (second defendant) when asked about the allegations of maladministration of funds in the Lesotho London mission in which she said in Sesotho,” the paper continued.
The conversation which is also translated in English depicts Mokaeane addressing her concerns on the question towards the misuse of funds, where she stated that public servants are on a rampage guzzling up government’s money.
“’M’e oaka hake bontše hore ehlile u bua ‘nete ha u re hona le tšebetso e mpe ea lichelete mona moo ke sebetsang teng, ehlile e mpe hobane, bahlanka ba sebetsang tlas’aka ba tsoile bosoele ho utsoa lichelete le ho itšebelisetsa chelete ea ‘muso hampe moo ke shebileng hona teng. Kore ke bomalimabe bo tšabehang hobane litaba tsena litla apesoa bapolotiki ho nnothoe ke lipolotik, empa hau sebetsa le motho kappa batho re fuoa mosebetsi ho latela litsebo tsa rona.
“Loosely translated in English; what you are saying is indeed true that there is maladministration of funds where I work. There is maladministration of funds because public servants who work under my watch, from where I have been looking, they have gone out of their way to steal and misuse government money for their own personal agendas.
“It is very unfortunate because these kinds of news will be associated with politics, but when you work with a person or people we are given a job according to our capabilities,” Mokaeane said in a radio interview.
“The radio presenter continued to ask; ‘Me Moakeane a k’u re ke kene mona mohlomphehi oaka. U itse ke uena Chief Accounting Officer mono hakere, joale bahlanka ba khona ho kenya letsoho joang licheleteng boliseng ba hau?
“Loosely translated to English; Ms. Mokaeane allow me to ask a question; you said you are Chief Accounting Officer there, so, how is it possible for the Public Servants to dip hands in the government funds under your watch?
“She then replied: ha kea re ba ntse ba kenya letsoho, ke itse ntse ba utsoa chelete ea ‘muso. ‘me taba tsena ehlile taba tsena ehlile ke qholotsa li institution tsohle tsa naha ea Lesotho tse ka rethusang hore li behe taba ena taolong.
“Loosely translated: I did not say they dipped their hands in the government funds, I said they stole the government funds. As such, I call on all the institutions of Lesotho which have the power to handle these matters to investigate and put this matter under control.
“She continued that “mona London ho itsoe retlo sebeletsa sechaba, joale hau kaba sebete u le mohlanka oa kena cheleteng ea ‘muso seo u senang tokelo ea ho etsa joalo ua e tšoara ua e ntša accounteng ka nnete ha ho ntho e ngoe ntle le hore ke e bitse ho utsoa chelete ea sechaba nthoeno.
“Loosely translated; we were sent to London to work for the Basotho nation, so if one as a Public Servant has the audacity to use the government funds of which he or she has no right to and withdraw it, really that leaves me no choice but to call it stealing government funds,” she said.
Attempts to get e comment from Mokaeane proved futile as she was not available by call, a feat which caused this paper to leave her a text message which she also ignored.