Covid-19 outbreak stalls Kamoli trial

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Mohalenyane Phakela 

FORMER army commander Tlali Kamoli and eight other soldiers’ trial for the June 2017 murder of former army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, failed to take off this week.

The much-postponed trial was supposed to have resumed on Monday. But it had to be postponed after the prosecutor, ‘Naki Nku, told Judge Charles Hungwe that they had been informed by the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) that two of the suspects had tested positive for Covid-19. However, Advocate Nku did not reveal the names of the positive suspects.

Justice Hungwe said the court would reconvene tomorrow to get an update from the LSC on the health status of the suspects. Only then would he decide the way forward, he said.

“This matter is postponed to Friday in order to map the way forward,” Justice Hungwe ordered.

Lieutenant-General (Lt-Gen) Kamoli is accused alongside Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko, and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.

They are all facing five counts which include murder, conspiracy to murder and risk of injury or death. Lt-Gen Kamoli faces additional charges of inciting murder and obstructing the course of justice.

Seventy-two witnesses including former prime ministers, Pakalitha Mosisili and Thomas Thabane, have been lined up to testify in the case.

The first witness to take the stand was Lance Corporal Mokete Halahala. The second witness, Retired Colonel Thato Phaila, is expected to undergo re-examination of his evidence whenever the trial resumes.

The matter had initially been expected to proceed on 6 September 2021. But this was not to be after the lead prosecutor, Adv Shaun Abrahams, announced that he was quitting because of lack of pay.

DPP Hlalefang Motinyane had since been making frantic efforts to have the government pay Adv Abrahams his dues.  She told Judge Hungwe last week that she was certain that Adv Abrahams would be back in court by this week.

He was still not present when the trial was postponed on Monday. It is not clear whether this was because his pay issue remains unresolved.

The two suspects are among 74 inmates who are said to have tested positive to Covid 19 at the Maseru Central Correctional Institution.

LCS Senior Cadet Officer Ntobane Pheko last week said they were worried by the spike in Covid-19 infections in prisons.

He said the 74 inmates had since been quarantined at the Central Correctional Facility to separate them from others.

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