MASERU — Seven men suspected to be members of a group that attacked army barracks and attempted to assassinate Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in April 2009 will now be extradited to Lesotho after losing an appeal in Bloemfontein.
The men, together with two others awaiting trial in the Maseru maximum security prison, will face trial for murder, attempted murder, robbery, kidnapping, illegal possession of fire arms, contravention of Internal Security Act and conspiracy to kill Mosisili.
Once South Africa’s minister of home affairs has approved their extradition the seven, who are all Mozambican nationals, will be shipped to Lesotho.
The men are Alberto Makwakwa, Angelo Mondlani, Mangani Malenge, Abel Nhatsave, George Thomas, Fransisco Alberto Mandlate and Rocky Masinga.
They are alleged to have been part of the 15 mercenaries hired by Jesse Ramakatane, a Lesotho citizen, who is also wanted by the Lesotho government in connection with attacks at ministers’ residences in June 2007 post-election political instability.
Their mission, according to court papers, was to depose Mosisili.
South African national Simon Mnguni, who was part of the mercenaries, has since turned state witness after he was assured that he would not be prosecuted if he told the truth.
The seven had appealed an earlier judgment by the Ladybrand magistrate’s court which said that they were liable for extradition to Lesotho.
In their appeal they had argued that the magistrate relied on the evidence brought by Lesotho’s director of public prosecutions which they said did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that they had indeed committed the crime.
But in a judgment delivered on February 11, Bloemfontein High Court judge, Justice John Musi, said there was sufficient evidence to warrant their prosecution in Lesotho’s courts.
He said there was no need for Lesotho to prove the alleged crime beyond reasonable doubt because this was an extradition case and not a criminal trial.
“In my view, the magistrate’s finding that there is evidence to warrant a prosecution of the appellants cannot be faulted, this appeal ought to be dismissed,” Justice Musa said.
“The seventh appellant (Rocky Masinga) and Mguni mention a person by the name of Jesse or Jezi who happens to be known by the authorities in the Kingdom of Lesotho as a fugitive from justice.”
“Six of the seven appellants were from Mozambique and were illegally in the Republic of South Africa. They were all arrested on the same day at a town next to the border and none of them could give an acceptable explanation,” he said.
“Two of the appellants presented gunshot wounds and they explained that they were injured in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
“The evidence is not only sufficient but overwhelming,” Justice Musi said.
Justice Musi also said Lesotho’s Director of Public Prosecutions Leaba Thetsane confirmed that the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs, Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, gave “an unequivocal assurance that the death penalty will not be carried out” for the accused.
The South African Supreme Court has also confirmed the decision by the Ladybrand magistrate’s court.
The seven were arrested in Ladybrand on April 22, 2009 by the South African police for being illegal immigrants.
Later it was discovered that they were part of the group that had attempted a coup in Lesotho.
During the hearing Mnguni testified that he was recruited in Gauteng by Ramakatane to assist “in overthrowing the government of Lesotho”.
He confirmed that he, the seven appellants and other persons went to the Kingdom of Lesotho”.
“He further confirmed that they all participated in the attempted coup,” the judge said.