The suspended Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) Director General Mahlomola Manyokole’s tribunal hearing has been deferred due to his lawyer’s illness.
The long awaited tribunal hearing which was perpetuated by the former Minister of Law and Justice, Professor Nqosa Mahao earlier this year was finally staged on Monday before a committee of judges headed by the retired judges Teboho Moiloa, Semapo Peete, High Court Judge, Justice Polo Banyane but was delayed as a result of Manyokole’s lawyer Advocate Tekane Maqakachane’s ill-health.
Manyokole was served with an order summoning him to a tribunal hearing on August 15, 2021 and sought for postponement before tribunal to allow his lawyer to recover and that the government must assist him with money amounting to M1.6million to pay his lawyer as he is bankrupt.
“I ask the tribunal to help me with funds to pay my lawyer. I wrote a letter seeking for the funds to the Prime Minister’s office but I have not received any answers.
“The government should help with fees for these series of litigations they have against me because I do not have money at all and am unable to pay my lawyer to speak on my behalf,” Manyokole said.
Manyokole who appeared before the committee without a lawyer, further asked the committee to give him permission to “…help with access to documents at DCEO and that I should be given a chance to talk to some of the employees who are witnesses in this matter so that I can have discussions with them,” he said.
He said his request to be assisted with funds by government was not a far-fetched notion as he was not the first to make such a request noting that in the past, Judge President of the Court of Appeal Justice Kananelo Mosito was once helped by the state with legal fees when he was dragged before a tribunal by the former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s-2016- -regime questioning his fitness to remain in office.
Manyokole went on to ask for authorisation to meet with DCEO staffers since his bail conditions do not allow him to meet with the employees as some are going to be witnesses in the same tribunal.
The tribunal hearing of Manyokole comes after he was served with a show-cause letter which asked him to make representations why he could not be hauled before a tribunal to test his fitness to continue to hold office.
On December 29, 2020, Minister of Justice and Law, Mahao, as he then was, wrote to Manyokole informing him that a tribunal had been established to investigate his fitness to hold office. The Minister invited Manyokole to make representations why he should not be suspended pending the outcome of the deliberations of the tribunal. He was given three days to make the representations.
Manyokole chose not to make any representations and on December 31, 2020 launched an urgent court case in the High Court to, on interim basis, interdict the Minister from advising the Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to suspend him and, in the event that such advice had already been given, to interdict the Prime Minister from suspending him; in the alternative, if the Prime Minister had already acted on the advice and suspended him, that such suspension be held in ‘abeyance, inoperative and ineffective.
The legality of the Minister’s letter inviting Manyokole to make representations had become a live issue in the proceedings launched on December 31, 2020.
The backdrop in this matter narrates that the Minister had advised the Prime Minister to suspend Manyokole after the latter had launched court proceedings challenging the Minister’s show-cause letter. During the course of his clarification of judgment handed down on 22 February 2021, Justice Moroke Mokhesi described the Minister’s action as ‘naked usurpation’ of the judicial function and concluded that it was null and void.
In his clarification judgment, Mokhesi wrote that he had “…laboured under a misapprehension’ that the order he granted dismissing the ‘substantive relief’ would be ‘read with declaration of nullity’ of the suspension. According to the learned judge, Manyokole remained ‘unsuspended.”
In his founding affidavit Manyokole does not specifically deal with the alleged incidents of misconduct cited by the Minister as far back as 10 December 2020 and repeated in the show-cause letter of 29 December 2020 and which prompted him to approach court for relief under CIV/APN/451/2020.
Manyokole contends that the matters complained about by the Minister and which at the time directed his attention to the reason for the establishment of the tribunal, are either ‘matters within the management or administrative purview of DCEO’ or ‘are matters of discipline or conduct’. It is not suggested by the DG under oath that they are false or trumped-up.
He opposed that the terms of reference are not sufficiently clear to inform him just what he is going to face at the tribunal. It does not say whether and how he is infirm of body or mind or what the misbehaviour is that calls for investigation. The result is that the tribunal is left to investigate anything imaginable – to his prejudice.
Manyokole also impugned the decision-making of the Minister and the Prime Minister on the common cause ground that he was not afforded a pre-decision hearing. He maintained that he was denied a hearing on his ‘incapacity or commission of misconduct’ before the establishment of the tribunal or before the Minister made an ‘adverse representation’ to the Prime Minister.
He further accused Mahao and Mojoro of being actuated by malice in initiating the statutory power under section 4 of the Corruption Act. He makes it plain under oath that the Minister and the Prime Minister are pursuing personal interests in invoking the statutory power created for his removal.
He continued that he had “secret information and intelligence” that some people who are the subject of corruption-related investigations by the DCEO under his stewardship and ‘busking (sic) in the comfort of … nefarious criminality … have suggested to the Government that all means must be adopted and employed to ensure my removal from the office of the DCEO.”
According to Manyokole, the first show-cause letter was in pursuit of that stratagem. He avers that after the withdrawal of the first show-cause letter, he ‘received intelligence … that Mahao and Majoro are helb-bent towards ensuring that he is removed from the office of the Director General … and are making all preparations and strategies to ensure that that goal is achieved.
He stated that he “believed the informers since even in their first occasion of the [Minister] seeking to suspend me from office, the information that they laid before me came to pass as a reality. I had no reason to doubt them this second time too.” He further alleges that the Prime Minister and the Minister harbour a grudge against him because he declined their entreaties to reinstate the DCEO chief investigator Mr. Thibeli whom he had suspended for being implicated in money-laundering. This information, he says, he received from “some persons I need not disclose.”
Manyokole went on to make other allegations against the Prime Minister and the Minister: that they in one form or another either interfered with his work or sought to influence him to discontinue corruption-related allegations against certain individuals. He also specifically accused the Minister of once requesting him to prosecute on corruption charges a minister from a minority party in the coalition government led by the Prime Minister.
It is further alleged that the chairperson of the tribunal, Justice Moiloa is the subject of corruption and money-laundering investigations by the DCEO under his auspices and that the judge’s selection as chairperson is therefore irrational. In that connection, Manyokole alleges that the judge, as former chairperson of Standard Bank, facilitated a corrupt purchase of Standard Bank’s house by its erstwhile managing director, Mpho Vumbukani.
Manyokole further alleged that the DCEO under his auspices is investigating several corruption and money-laundering allegations against the Prime Minister.
On the other side, Majoro stated that “the explosive remarks made in the affidavit of the DG threaten the stability of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho.” That assertion is to be seen against the backdrop of the common cause fact relied on by the Prime Minister that his is a coalition government which includes one of the politicians whose prosecution the Minister is accused by Manyokole of instigating.
The assertion is not to be taken lightly. It is made on the back of allegations by Mr. Manyokole that he is being briefed by individuals in the intelligence service about a plot by the Minister and the Prime Minister to get rid of him. As the Prime Minister understandably laments, as head of the Government the nation’s intelligence service is answerable to him and not to the DG. That divided loyalties of an intelligence service have the potential to destabilise a country which is already plagued by political instability is a moot proposition.
The Prime Minister also states under oath that he was informed by an employee of the DCEO (Mr. Tsotang Likotsi) that Mr. Manyokole was part of a plot to unseat him as Prime Minister by causing him to be prosecuted for corruption in relation to the Victoria Hotel affair. That assertion was confirmed by Mr. Tsotang Likotsi who is DCEO’s Principal Investigator.
Likotsi stated in a confirmatory affidavit that he was the official responsible for investigating the Victoria Hotel affair and that he found no evidence implicating the Prime Minister but that the DG does not agree and wants the Prime Minister prosecuted at all costs so as to destabilise the government that he leads. (The important thing is not so much the truth of these allegations but the fact that they are being made).
As regards the alleged pressure to have other politicians prosecuted, the Prime Minister and the Minister state that the suggestion is absurd because the DG has no such power as it vests in the DPP.
The Minister also refutes the allegation that he sought to influence the DG not to pursue corruption investigations against a named company (Lesotho Stone Enterprises) because the Minister’s unnamed nephew is employed there.
Manyokole will appear again on Monday to be briefed about the his request to get funds as the government’s lawyer, Attorney Monaheng Rasekoai stated that he will help Manyokole the same way he helped President Kananelo Mosito in 2016.