MASERU — The government this week failed to launch an application in a South African court to extradite Makotoko Lerotholi to face charges of armed robbery, abduction and murder.
Lerotholi, popularly known as Mashai, appeared before the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.
He was arrested on May 8 and released on June 23 on R2 500 bail.
The court on Tuesday was supposed to hear the extradition application for Mashai, but the Lesotho government failed to follow the right procedure.
The extradition hearing, which will be like a full trial on its own, was postponed to next month.
Mashai’s lawyer, Haae Phoofolo, told the Lesotho Times the Lesotho police had filed extradition papers in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court before seeking authorisation from South Africa’s minister of justice, as required for the procedure.
Mashai is wanted in Lesotho in connection with the April 22 attack on State House which was seen as an attempt on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s life.
Police say he led a group of hired bandits that kidnapped soldiers, stole arms and an army vehicle before launching the ill-fated attack on State House.
Mashai is also wanted in connection with the June 2007 attacks on ministers’ homes.
Phoofolo said the extradition case was postponed to August 25 but that depends on whether the Lesotho police have followed the correct procedure or not.
Phoofolo said according to the procedure the extradition papers should be filed through the Lesotho High Commission because the request is coming from a state seeking extradition of a suspect from another state.
“The Lesotho High Commissioner to South Africa should have sought authority from the South African minister of justice to file extradition papers in court,” Phoofolo said.
“Instead of doing that, the Lesotho police headed straight to court and we argued that the procedure was not followed and therefore the case could not be heard.
“They filed extradition papers in court without authorisation from the minister of justice in that country.”
This is the third time that the government has failed to extradite suspects from South Africa.
Phoofolo said the law says if 60 days lapse without compilation of a report, evidence or statement from the complainant the case may be discharged and restarted.
The first case involved Jessie Ramakatane and Thabiso Mahase who were suspected of participating in the attacks on ministers and their military guards in 2007.
The government failed to provide evidence that would make the court order their extradition.
Their case was postponed sine die (indefinitely).
Lerotholi, Ramakatane and Mahase were wanted by the police who suspected them to be part of a group of men who attacked ministers’ houses during political disturbances that rocked Lesotho in June 2007.
Phoofolo told this paper in an earlier interview that he was going to oppose efforts to extradite Lerotholi to Lesotho.
“We will oppose the extradition request,” Phoofolo said.
“Lerotholi made it clear that he did not want to return to Lesotho.”
He said his client was “actually surprised that he was wanted in Lesotho in connection with the April 22 attack on State House”.
“He denies liability. He is actually surprised,” Phoofolo said.
“He said he was aware of the allegations but flatly denies any participation in the attacks.
“He said he did not have the courage to carry out such an attack.”