JUDGE ‘Maliepollo Makhetha has been appointed to preside over former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and others’ treason and murder trial.
She takes over from Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane who was last month ordered off the case by the Court of Appeal. This followed an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, who had argued that Justice Sakoane was likely to be biased against the prosecution.
Although the decision has not been publicly communicated by the judiciary, Justice Makhetha was the one in charge on Tuesday to preside over preliminary issues ahead of the trial which is now expected to proceed from 25 to 27 October 2022.
Kamoli is charged alongside politicians, Mothetjoa Metsing, Selibe Mochoboroane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa. The charges are in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane are accused number five and six respectively. Mr Metsing has not appeared in court as he fled the country in December 2021. Justice Sakoane even issued a warrant for his arrest that same month.
On Tuesday, Advocate Motiea Teele KC told the court that they intend to apply for Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane to be tried separately from the others. He however, did not give reasons for the move saying he would do so in September this year.
“I confirm with the court the (October 2022) dates as have been explained by Crown Counsel Advocate Shaun Abrahams but I will also like to alert the court that we are intending to file for the separation of these cases for the purpose of fifth and sixth accused in this case. We will submit our heads of arguments in September for the separation of trial,” Adv Teele said.
Lead prosecutor Abrahams had initially proposed that the trial should begin on 21 June 2022, However, Adv Letuka Molati, who represents Kamoli, said he would not be available on that day.
Adv Molati said due to the lengthy delays of their trials, the accused were likely to run out of money to continue paying for legal services. He said the suspects risked going to trial without legal representation as a result of the “poor” pro deo rates paid out by the government to lawyers it engaged to represent suspects who could not afford to pay on their own.
He said for them to become pro deo lawyers, the government would have to revise its payments rates.
“My Lady, these accused persons have been detained since 2017 and at some point they applied for pro deo lawyers, which were granted, only for the Director of Public Prosecution (Hlalefang Motinyane), to apply for them to be cancelled. This left the accused in a dire situation. Pro deo lawyers are getting M400 a day while over M50 000 is spent daily on the Crown,” Adv Molati said.
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He added that he would only be available from August onwards to represent his client.
In response, Adv Abrahams proposed the October dates but said he would not discuss his fees in an open forum.
“I will not respond to what my learned friend here is saying because I cannot discuss my fees in an open forum but they don’t come anywhere close to M50 000.
“However, we can propose new trial dates, which will be 25 and 27 October 2022,” Adv Abrahams said.
Meanwhile, Kamoli’s application to subpoena Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to court to explain why he and his co-accused cannot be furnished with the recordings of the 2016 Phumaphi Commission inquiry into army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao’s murder has been rejected by the High Court.
Kamoli had argued that they needed the recordings as part of their defence in their trial for Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder. He argued that he wanted the recordings because a state witness, retired Major General Lineo Poopa, was allegedly presenting a different testimony to what he had given to the Commission when it interviewed him as part of its 2016 inquiry into Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder.
However, Judge Charles Hungwe dismissed the application, saying should the need arise, the defence will still be given a chance to re-cross examine the witness on the recordings once he has heard the state case in full.
Kamoli has been charged alongside Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi Moleli, Corporal Motsoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tsitso Ramoholi. They have denied murdering Lt-Gen Mahao.