- former DPM released on M50 000 bail after striking deal with DPP,
- judge strongly rebukes him over his tendency to abscond.
Mohalenyane Phakela / Moorosi Tsiane
TREASON and murder-accused former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who has been hiding in South Africa since last year, finally appeared in court yesterday.
He was formally charged and released on M50 000 bail by Judge ‘Maliepollo Makhetha. The judge also cancelled the December 2021 warrant for his arrest issued by Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane.
This after Mr Metsing and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane, had reached an agreement for the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader to be joined to the trial and be released on stringent bail conditions. In terms of the conditions, Mr Metsing must pay M50 000 bail, report to Leribe police every Friday and appear in before court whenever he is ordered to do so. He was also ordered to immediately surrender his travel documents to the lead investigator, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Sera Makharilele.
His co-accused are Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane, former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, army officers Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.
The charges are in connection with the 30 August 2014 failed coup against former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s first government.
Mr Metsing arrived at the High Court premises yesterday as part of a convoy which had vociferous members of his LCD.
They made a din by blaring their car hooters, singing and chanting LCD slogans as their leader made way into the court to appear before Justice Makhetha.
Mr Metsing had since 2018 engaged in various legal battles with DPP Motinyane over her decision to charge him for treason and murder. Mr Metsing had argued that the charges were trumped-up and politically motivated while DPP Motinyane argued that the Crown had a strong case against the politician. She had even called for Mr Metsing to be remanded in custody while awaiting trial.
But in a surprising turn of events yesterday, the lead prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, told the court that the Crown had reached an agreement with Mr Metsing’s lawyer, Motiea Teele, for the cancellation of the LCD leader’s warrant of arrest and that he be granted bail.
Justice Sakoane had on 6 December 2021 issued a warrant of Mr Metsing’s arrest following his failure to appear in court alongside his co-accused.
Justice Makhetha took over the trial in the aftermath of the Court of Appeal’s 14 May 2022 judgement ordering Justice Sakoane to recuse himself from the trial. This after DPP Motinyane had argued that the chief justice was unlikely to bring an impartial mind to the trial.
Advocate Abrahams yesterday asked the court to cancel the warrant for Mr Metsing’s arrest and substitute it with a settlement order bearing the conditions they had agreed on with Adv Teele.
The settlement order, which Justice Makhetha, endorsed as a court order reads as follows:
- “Mr Metsing is joined as the fifth accused in CRI/T/0001/2018 (treason and murder trial).
- The warrant of arrest of the fifth accused (Metsing) for failure to appear before court in CRI/T/0001/2018 on 6 December 2021 as ordered, be and is hereby cancelled.
- The application filed by the fifth accused dated 17 June 2022 in CRI/T/0001/2018 is hereby withdrawn.
- The fifth accused is admitted to bail on conditions that;
- He stands trial to finality
- He appears before court whenever so directed by the court
- He does not interfere with Crown witnesses
- He pays a bail deposit in the amount of M50 000 by no later than 10am on 11 August 2022
- He provides one independent person to stand him surety of M100 000 or two persons to stand him surety of M50 000 each, which amounts are to be deposited not later than 10am on 11 August 2022.
- He reports to Leribe Police Station every Friday between 8am and 4pm
- He surrenders his passport and/or any travel documents to the investigating officer, DCP Makharilele, by not later than 3.30pm today (yesterday).
- He seeks the permission of DCP Makharilele whenever he requires to leave the jurisdiction of Lesotho, which permission should not be unreasonably refused.”
Mr Metsing’s cancelled 17 June application is one wherein he had sought an order for the cancellation of his arrest warrant, that he be joined to the trial in absentia and be admitted to bail.
While he obtained favourable conditions through his settlement with the prosecution, Justice Makhetha nevertheless strongly rebuked the LCD leader for his propensity to abscond.
“We all agree that it is important for this matter to be put to rest and that can only be achieved if everyone comes to court for the matter to be tried to finality,” Justice Makhetha said.
“I want to send a strong message of reprimand to the accused, Mr Metsing, in relation to the conduct he displayed by not complying with the court order of 18 November 2021 to be joined and arraigned before this court. The court cannot ignore that. Even if he is before the court today, he is appearing after eight months since the issuance of a warrant for his arrest for failure to appear in this court in December last year. That non-compliance amounts to contempt of this court. The time that has lapsed between December and today is considerable and draws the court’s attention.
“The accused is a political leader and a former deputy prime minister of this country. As such, he is expected to set a good example to the nation when it comes to compliance with court orders. He must practice what he preaches to his followers against crime because contempt of court is a serious criminal offence.
“The accused is a legislator and therefore he cannot make laws to break them. His conduct in handling the court orders in the present case is condemned. This is the kind of conduct which will bring the reputation of this court into disrepute. It is mostly likely to undermine the public confidence in the administration of justice. Therefore, the accused must not consider himself above any law. He must avoid being mistaken for a leader who is taking advantage of his standing in society to become a law unto himself,” Justice Makhetha said. She subsequently postponed the trial to 27 October 2022.