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Mahao murder trial postponed again

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE trial of former army commander Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Tlali Kamoli and eight other soldiers accused of murdering army commander Maaparankoe Mahao has been postponed to 31 August 2020.

Zimbabwean Judge Charles Hungwe on Monday postponed the trial to allow the Court of Appeal to hear the accused’s application for his recusal from trying them.

Lt-Gen Kamoli’s co-accused are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.

The nine are accused of murdering Lt-Gen Mahao on 25 June 2015 in Mokema, Maseru. They are also accused of the attempted murder of Lt-Gen Mahao’s nephews, Mahao Mahao and Mabilikoe Leuta, by shooting inside a vehicle in which they were passengers.

They are accused of damaging Lt-Gen Mahao’s vehicle, a white Nissan half-truck, by firing at it with an automatic rifle.

Lt-Gen Kamoli is also accused of the theft of Lt-Gen Mahao’s 9mm pistol and Samsung Galaxy mobile phone.

The much-postponed trial had been expected to start on Monday but this did not happen after crown counsel Advocate Christopher Lephuthing told Justice Hungwe that the accused had a pending apex court appeal for his recusal from the case.

Adv Lephuthing said the appeal was initially expected to be heard during the May 2020 session of the apex court. But this did not happen due to the accused soldiers’ failure to file their court papers on time to enable their appeal to be heard.

He said they now expected the appeal to be heard digitally by the apex court before the end of this month.

“We attended the May 2020 roll call of the Court of Appeal together with Adv (Napo) Mafaesa (one of the accused’s lawyers) with the aim of having the appeal squeezed on the roll for hearing),” Adv Lephuthing said.

“However, we failed to get a slot because there was no record of the matter which had been filed by the applicants. There is no explanation whatsoever why the applicants failed to file the record.

“However, the Court of Appeal has resolved to hear the matter digitally in line with the Covid-19 regulations and we are still awaiting the Court of Appeal registrar to give us the hearing date.”

Adv Mafaesa blamed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Adv Hlalefang Motinyane for failing to file the record of proceedings to enable the appeal to be heard by the apex court in May 2020.

Justice Hungwe then postponed the trial to 31 August 2020. It is expected that by that date the apex court would have heard and ruled on Lt-Gen Kamoli and others’ application for his recusal. The soldiers want Justice Hungwe to recuse himself on the grounds that he could be biased against them.

Meanwhile, four police officers accused of murdering fellow police officer, Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng in March 2016 will reappear before Justice Hungwe on 10 August 2020.

Their trial was initially supposed to begin on Monday but it was postponed to next week because one of their lawyers, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, had not been furnished with new witness statements.

Adv Mda was on sick leave when the charge sheet was amended to allow for additional witness statements.

“The case is postponed to 10 August 2020 to allow the crown to furnish the accused with additional statements,” Justice Hungwe ruled.

The four police officers are Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Superintendent Mothibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and Police Constable Haleokoe Taasoane. They are accused of murdering PC Khetheng in March 2016.

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