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TRC boss finally in court for sexual assault

Business

…magistrate grants him free bail

Nthatuoa Koeshe

The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC)’s Executive Director Tsikoane Peshoane finally appeared in court to answer to charges of sexual assault meted against him by a group of women who are his former junior employees.

Peshoane appeared in the Maseru Magistrate court first on Monday charged on three counts of sexual harassment before Magistrate ‘Mamorojele Qoo, who having heard his legal representative Advocate Christopher Lephuthing granted him free bail.

With the first appearance of the TRC boss on Monday, Lephuthing applied for the referral of the case to the High Court in terms of Section 128 of the Constitution saying there are a number of factors to consider before they could proceed with remand.

He told the court that the conduct of the police in relation to the case was not clear, saying there were falsified witness statements which he labelled as just allegations without proof meant to implicate his client Peshoane in the matter.

He said the police falsified a witness statement of one Simon Fako in a manner which would implicate his client saying the conduct of the police should be investigated adding that it would be premature and presumptuous to proceed with the remand of Peshoane before all that is looked into.

“A leveled investigation must be launched at the police as an institution. Under these circumstances it’s critical to investigate the police’s conduct in this case,” Lephuthing said.

He further questioned the fact that all the suspects cannot remember the exact dates and time when Peshoane made his advances and that the fact that the suspects are reporting incidents that happened as far back as 2018 on the same day in 2022 should also be questioned.

“Is it a coincidence that 3 to 4 ladies touched around 2018-19 reported the crime on the same day. My client suspects that the ladies are recruited by the police with a certain agenda,” Lephuthing said.

Lephuthing further told the court that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was pressured by the international community to proceed with his client’s prosecution saying they submit that the questions of law are central to the interpretation of the constitution as Peshoane also deserved a fair trial.

Prosecutor Chabalala however, said the DPP was never in any manner pressured saying the applications are made purely on assumptions as there was no evidence to show that the police’s conduct towards the case was to implicate Peshoane.

After looking into the application, Magistrate Qoo gave her ruling and dismissed the application and continued to remand the TRC Executive Director.

Peshoane is accused of inter alia fondling, caressing and kissing the women illegally and against their consent with intent to get sexual advantage over them in his position as their senior at work.

When he next appeared and was reminded his charges and rights, and asked if he understood, Peshoane was silent for a moment and later tried to protest that the charges read to him were confusing but he was cut short by the Magistrate who granted him free bail on condition that he stands trial to finality, that he does not interfere with the witnesses and that he be available for all his remands.

He faces charges of sexual assault for contravening section 5(2) and section 3 (2) both read together with Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act of 2003.

Magistrate Qoo indicated that Peshoane is said to have abused his power as their boss at work to sexually abuse the three women who at the time were working at the TRC.

Earlier this year, a sextet of Tsikoane’s junior employees laid charges of sexual harassment against him saying he had been harassing them from as far back as 2018.

The women took turns telling the police tales of how Peshoane used his power as the Executive Director to sexually harass them with impunity for months.

The women’s sexual charges against Peshoane come at the height of an internal investigation into alleged corruption; labor rights abuse, abuse of power and abuse of donor funds but those were cleared by the TRC board who said the allegations were null and void.

TRC’s employees petitioned the TRC Board on February 1 to remove Peshoane from the helm of the right group organization with immediate effect.

The employees’ petition to the board laid a nuanced account of how Peshoane as the Executive Director went against the ideals and principles of accountability, transparency and human rights protection that the organization espoused.

According to the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 a sexual act means “direct or indirect contact with the anus, breasts, penis, buttocks, thighs or vagina of one person and any other part of the body of another person; or exposure or display of the genital organs of one person to another person”.

And the Act interprets coercive circumstances to include but not limited to any circumstances where: “there is an application of force, whether explicit or implicit, direct or indirect, physical or psychological against any person or animal”. Among some of the claims leveled against Peshoane include alleged incidents whose punishment according to the sexual offences Act could see him imprisoned for eight years if found guilty by a court of law.

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