Lesotho’s Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has won damages of M50 000 (R50 000) in a defamation suit against the defunct Mirror, writes Mzimkhulu Sithetho.

 

The suit arose out of a report published in April 2001, headlined  ‘Truth is a mountain, the Mosisilism want to take it head-on.’  The story insinuated that Mosisili stole books belonging to the National University of Lesotho while he was a student there.

The article also accused him of claiming to have been detained for political reasons in the 1970s when in fact he was arrested in a drinking place.

Mosisili had demanded M250 000 (R250 000) when he filed the defamation suit seven years ago.
 
During the course of the long-running case, the newspaper closed and the news editor died.

The remaining respondents were the Mirror’s former editor, Tebello Pitso and Epic Printers.

In his judgment in the Maseru High Court, Judge Nomgcongo said the  allegations against the prime minister had imputed opportunism, dishonesty and criminality.

“There was no justification whatsoever for those allegations and the defendants negligently published them without bothering to establish their truthfulness.

“I have no doubt they were aware of the article regard being that it was no ordinary citizen against whom the allegations were being made and this should have put them on the alert,” the judge said.

Judge Nomgcongo also added that following the article, a political party led by Mr Mosisili split and a sizeable chunk of its membership including his deputy then, left to form a new party.

“Though it appears the plaintiff has weathered the damage inflicted on him, that did not however detract from the sting of the defamatory matter and the assault upon the dignity of Mr Mosisili.

“For that, he deserves appropriate financial recompense,” said the judge.