By Michael J. Jordan
MASERU, Lesotho – Timothy Thahane, former Lesotho finance minister and a former deputy governor of the South African Reserve Bank, has been accused of defrauding a Lesotho farming project of R24-million.
And he’s not alone, but just one of a handful of current and former Lesotho ministers who are accused of corruption. Yet none of them has been tried in court – let alone prosecuted.
Last month Thahane’s lawyer, Qhalehang Letsika, astonished the country’s high court with his reason for why the judge should once again postpone the trial of the 74-year-old. He admitted he had proposed the November court date in September, but the court hadn’t confirmed the date with him, so he wasn’t prepared to proceed.
High court Justice Tseliso Monaphathi expressed his frustration: “It now seems to be the tradition to postpone these high-profile cases … this should not be tolerated. It affects the reputation of this court and all the courts in this country.”
Letsika told the Mail & Guardian this week: “The intention is not that my client shouldn’t have his day in court. We are ready to appear in court, defend his rights and prove that the charges are baseless.”
But this is more than a saga of how one tiny African country struggles to prosecute financial crimes perpetrated at the highest levels, which ultimately hinder its development. The ruling coalition also asserts that corruption is a root cause of Lesotho’s current crisis sparked by an August 30 coup attempt.