MURDER and attempted murder-accused former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, who has been languishing in remand prison for more than a year, will have to wait longer until 8 April for his bail application to be heard.
The bail application was meant to be heard on Monday but it had to be postponed after the prosecution asked the High Court judge, Molefi Makara, for more time to consult before filing its papers to oppose the application.
Lt-Gen Kamoli faces a murder charge in connection with the killing of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko at the Police Headquarters in Maseru during the attempted coup of 30 August 2014.
Lt-Gen Kamoli is charged alongside Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa.
He also faces 14 counts of attempted murder in connection with the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesaiah Thabane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.
In this case Lt-Gen Kamoli is charged alongside Major Pitso Ramoepane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Sergeant Heqoa Malefane and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko.
The former army commander has been languishing in remand prison since his arrest in October 2017 and on Monday he had hoped that the High Court would hear and grant his bail application.
However, the bail hearing was postponed to 8 April after the Crown Counsel Advocate, Letsatsi Masoeu, told the court that he had agreed with Lt-Gen Kamoli’s lawyer, Advocate Thato Chabana that he be given until 27 March 2019 to file his opposing papers.
“The crown is opposing the bail application and we have agreed with the petitioner’s lawyer to give us until 27 March to file opposing papers as I have to consult,” Adv Masoeu said.
In turn, Adv Chabana also asked the court to give her until 2 April 2019 to respond to the opposing papers.
Before ruling on the matter, Justice Makara asked whether the case was not one of those allocated to foreign judges.
“Would it not be healthy to allocate the matter to a foreign judge as I learned that they had been appointed for such cases? Justice (Charles) Hungwe was here a while ago (in January) as an advance party to the foreign judges appointed for such case,” Justice Makara stated.
Adv Chabana then argued that the foreign judges were only tasked with conducting the actual trials and the bail application was only because the foreign judges had not come.
“The foreign judges were brought specifically for trials and Justice Hungwe was here to set the pre-trial conferences of such cases (politically sensitive cases). There has not been any progress in the commencement of the trials hence the bail application by my client,” Adv Chabana said.
Justice Makara then postponed the matter to 8 April 2019, saying the case was yet to be allocated to a judge to preside over it.
“The matter is postponed to 8 April 2019 so that after all the papers have been filed, the judge who will be allocated the case can go through them and map the way forward,” Justice Makara ruled.
The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mokhele Moletsane, is on record saying that the decision to engage foreign judges was taken to protect local judges from possible victimisation and backlash from trying the “politically sensitive cases”.
Mr Moletsane said while the local judges were competent enough to try the cases, the government and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) still felt it necessary to engage foreign judges because the cases of former and serving members of the security sector as well as politicians were politically sensitive. He further said that the verdicts of the foreign judges were less likely to be viewed as biased.
However, the recruitment of foreign judges has been opposed by Lt-Gen Kamoli, former Defence minister Tšeliso Mokhosi and 14 others who filed an urgent court application on 15 February 2019.
The other 14 applicants are Major Pitso Ramoepane, Thabo Tšukulu, Mothibeli Mofolo, Mabitle Matona, Rapele Mphaki, Pitso Ramoepana, Lekhooa Moepi, Mahlele Moeletsi, Mahlomola Makhoali, Nthatakane Motanyane, Motšoane Machai, Liphapang Sefako, Nemase Faso, Tieho Tikiso and Litekanyo Nyakane.
They want the appointment of the foreign judges by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to be nullified on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
In terms of the interim relief, they want Justice Hungwe and the other foreign judges to be interdicted and prevented from commencing criminal proceedings until the finalisation of their main court application.