The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) has pronounced that it is not obliged by the contents of clause 10 of the agreement of political parties in Lesotho which shelves arrest, charging and prosecution of political leaders suspected of crimes
Clause 10 of that Memorandum of Agreement states that “Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reforms process”.
The legality of the clause was challenged by the victims of crimes which were alleged to have been committed by highly placed political leaders, including the deputy leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) Tseliso Mokhosi. The party is led by Mothetjoa Metsing, also suspected of corruption.
The constitutional court ruled out the clause as illegal and of no legal force.
According to the DCEO the controversial clause 10 of the agreement has never been congruent with the law governing this agency and as such the agency is not obliged by its content.
Borotho Matsoso, director general of DCEO said: “It has argued that the said clause is then product of the regional agreement and as such it surpasses any national laws. If one was to go by that argument, this regional agreement is wanting in many respect and redundant in the sense that it conflicts with the African Union Convention on preventing and combating corruption, Article 7, paragraph 5, says, ‘subject to the provisions of the domestic legislation, any immunity granted to public officials shall not be an obstacle to the investigation of allegations against and prosecution of such officials,’”
Speaking at a press conference in Maseru on December 19, Matsoso said Lesotho is a member and signatory to the AU convention and it’s bound by the aforementioned article, “therefore clause 10 of the agreement even without the constitutional court ruling was bound to be of no effect because of the Kingdoms domestic laws and its continental commitment in terms of the AU convention on preventing and combating corruption.”
“With due respect ad humility, we wish to ask for the public’s indulgence and patience to give the due process of the law time to roll out taking into account the extremely important on going reform process so that all the suspected culprits could be duly placed before the courts of law,” Matsoso pleaded.
Referring to the alleged charged against Metsing, Matsoso said the topic had been of interest of late, more so after the signing of the agreement between the government of Lesotho and the opposition parties, whereby a temporary moratorium of criminal charges against Metsing was contemplated in terms of clause 10 of the agreement.
“As DCEO, from the onset, we have made it clear that we are a government of Lesotho law enforcement agency which is governed by the laws of this land and empowered by the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act No. 5 of 1999 as amended. Our mandate blinds us to respect the rule of law and observe all government obligations thereto, so long as they are within the parameters of the law governing this Kingdom,” he stated.
On the allegations of possible corruption in the relationship of the leader of Basotho National Party (BNP) Chief Thesele Maseribane – one of the four parties in the ruling coalition – and British business tycoon, Aron Banks, Matsoso explained that it had been a while since DCEO embarked on the investigation of the alleged suspected case of corruption.
He explained: “Irrespective of the alleged suspect’s status, an investigation into this matter was embarked upon. After perusal of different records pertaining to the issuance of mining rights to one mining company in which one of the directors was said to be one Mr Aron Banks, we found that the procedures were properly followed and as such the mining rights were accordingly issued.”
According to Matsoso, DCEO came across no misfeasance in terms of money laundering in as far as the money paid to Maseribane by Banks was concerned. He said the elements of money laundering did not match what transpired between the two hence no money laundering charges could be preferred against him.
“We still stand ready for any additional admissible evidence in this matter. This investigation became swift and straight to the point because the person involved was cooperative and more than willing to clarify certain issues relating to him and the said Mr Banks,” Mastsoso said.