Lesotho journalist Thabo Thakalekoala has pleaded not guilty to charges
of criminal defamation, sedition, injuring the prime minister’s
reputation and subversion, writes Mzimkhulu Sithetho.

The journalist was arrested on June 22 after he had read over Harvest FM a letter that he had said he got from members of the Lesotho Defence Force. Thakalekoala was first charged with high treason, but the charge was later changed. The letter denigrated the Prime Minister, calling him an “unwanted ruler” and pointing to his alleged South African background.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili testified in the Lesotho High Court case this week that the letter injured his reputation.

The prime minister admitted that he holds South African permanent residence. He showed the court a SA ID document, which he obtained while a lecturer at the Zululand University in Kwazulu-Natal in 1992. But he denied he attained full citizenship of the country.

The prime minister stayed in SA for nine years from 1983 when he fled the country during political disturbances.

He told the court he had no intensions of attaining that country’s citizenship as it had been his intentions to come back home.

“I owe no allegiance or adherence to that country, but I have been a law abiding citizen of the country, otherwise I could have been kicked out,” said the prime minister.

He was asked why he attained the ID when Lesotho was preparing for the first democratic elections in 1993, in which he participated not only as a voter, but as a candidate. 

He said the process of attaining an ID was tedious and lengthy, and it was only issued when he was due to return home.

He dismissed the suggestion that he did not renounce it or inform the government of Lesotho then about this holding another country’s ID because he was also interested in being a citizen of South Africa.

He said his holding the ID would not hinder him in standing for election or to be appointed to a government position as it was only for permanent residence and not citizenship.

If found guilty, Thakalekoala faces many years in jail or capital punishment.