Acquittal at last for ‘mutiny’ soldiers
TWENTY-TWO army officers who have been facing mutiny charges since 2015 are finally truly free men after they were acquitted by a court martial trying them.
The acquittal comes after the soldiers had been in suspense, unaware of their fate for over two years.
Initially, 23 army officers were charged, before the High Court gave an order for a permanent stay of prosecution – referring to a right to have trial begin and conclude without unreasonable delay for Brigadier Thoriso Mareka, on 18 November 2017.
The army officers acquitted are Brigadier Poqa Motoa, Colonel Stemere, Colonel Kolisang, Major Makhetha, Captain Chaka, Sergeant Mokhobo, Sergeant Semakale, Sergeant Lekhabunyane, Corporal Mokhoro, Corporal Letsilane, Corporal Lipoto, Corporal Manaka, Corporal Chele, Lance Corporal Molefi, Lance-Corporal Makhooane, Private Pama, Private Bolofo and Private Ralitlemo.
In addition to facing a substantive charge of mutiny, the army officers were also charged with failure to suppress mutiny and failure to report mutiny.
Prosecutor, Major Mantšo Sello told the military court this week that the prosecution no longer had evidence to present because the witnesses who were supposed to testify had since withdrawn their intention.
“The prosecution accepts the accused’s not guilty plea because we no longer have witnesses to testify,” Maj Sello said.
He requested the court to accept a copy of a letter signed by witnesses indicating their withdrawal from testifying against the accused army officers.
However, one of the lawyers representing the accused, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho was quick to rise and object to the handing in of the letter saying, it was not necessary.
He indicated that if the prosecution did not have any evidence to put forward, it was enough to make such an indication without submitting any document because that would be against the procedure.
Other defence lawyers, Atty Khotso Nthontho, Advocate Christopher Lephuthing, Adv Koili Ndebele and AdvMonaheng Rasekoai also aligned themselves with the submission that there was no need for the prosecution to hand in any document.
They immediately applied for the acquittal of their clients.
The President of the Court Martial, Major-General Mojalefa Letsoela acquitted the army officers in all charges.
Immediately after the acquittal, there was great applause by the families of the army officers.
Some relatives ran to the dock where the accused were sitting and embraced them.
Relatives started singing a Sesotho song: “Mohau oa hae ke o sa feleng,” loosely translated as “His mercy endures forever.”
On the other hand, the army officers could be heard joyfully saying, “At last, finally…”
As the relatives walked out of the court room, in a celebratory mood, they started yet another song in Sesotho lyrics which said: “Le satane re mo hlotse, matla a hae a felile,” which can be loosely translated to mean, “We have defeated satan and he has lost power.”