Drama at DCP Mokete’s sexual assault trial

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Mohalenyane Phakela

DEPUTY Commissioner of Police (DCP) Paseka Mokete’s much-delayed sexual assault trial got off to a dramatic start this week.

This after his lawyer, Monaheng Rasekoai, exchanged angry words with DCP Mokete’s alleged victim, Inspector ‘Makatleho Mphetho. She accused the lawyer of harassing her and deliberately twisting her evidence to suit his client’s interests.

Inspector Mphetho was supported by the prosecutor, Motene Rafoneke, who accused Mr Rasekoai of intimidating her.

In turn, Mr Rasekoai accused Inspector Mphetho of being a hostile witness and disrespecting him by failing to accurately answer his questions.

So heated were the exchanges that Senior Resident Magistrate, Peter Murenzi, had to ask both parties to “cool down” and conduct themselves professionally.

DCP Mokete stands accused of sexually assaulting Inspector Mphetho on 30 April 2020 by touching her buttocks, tearing her trousers and manhandling her.

Inspector Mphetho was put on the witness stand to testify against her boss and alleged victimiser when the trial got underway on Monday.

She told the court that she was on duty at parliament building on 30 April 2020 when DCP Mokete arrived in the company of his two bodyguards and his chauffer to hand her his resignation letter from the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA). Inspector Mphetho is the deputy secretary general of LEPOSA, the militant police union which has been at odds with DCP Mokete, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and the rest of the police command. LEPOSA accuses the police management of incompetence and cronyism. In turn, the police command accuses LEPOSA of insubordination.

She said after accepting DCP Mokete’s resignation letter, the latter asked her to sign another document to acknowledge receipt which she refused to sign. She did not say why she refused to sign the document. She said DCP Mokete then disembarked from his vehicle and grabbed her buttocks and in the process, broke the buttons on her uniform trousers.

She said the incident traumatised her to the extent of urinating on herself. She took to her heels with DCP Mokete in hot pursuit.  The police boss then caught up with her and grabbed her by the collar of her jersey, she claimed. She said DCP Mokete’s chauffer, one Inspector Komota, intervened and asked her to return the resignation letter which she did. DCP Mokete and his team then drove away, she said.

Development Planning minister and Thabana Morena legislator, Selibe Mochoboroane, and senior government chauffeur, Motloang Moima, witnessed the incident and would therefore testify in her support, Inspector Mphetho said.

“Moima, who was standing on the National Assembly veranda when this ordeal occurred, asked me why my boss was attacking me so early in the morning. I told him that it was related to work issues. I then got into the parliament building for the session that was due to start at 9am and met Honourable Mochoboroane. He asked me about the incident, saying he had witnessed it from his vehicle at the parking lot. I narrated every detail to him.

“I wanted to go to the Central Charge Office to report the matter but I was too weak to drive. So, I asked (LEPOSA treasurer) Mathebe Motseki to come and collect me. We proceeded to the Central Charge office where we found the then deputy commanding officer, Superintendent Setsumi, who ordered one Inspector Matekane to assist me to open a case. Inspector Matekane also inspected the damaged trousers which I was still wearing and told me to submit it to them later on. He gave me a medical form which was filled by a doctor at Queen II Hospital.

“When I returned to submit the form at the charge office, the officer commanding the station, one Senior Superintendent Mathaba, was now present and I told him what had transpired at parliament. I also submitted my uniform to Inspector Matekane as part of the evidence,” Inspector Mphetho said.

Messrs Rasekoai and Kuili Ndebele are representing DCP Mokete.

Mr Rasekoai began cross examining Inspector Mphetho after she had submitted her evidence.

The cross-examination began smoothly on Monday with Mr Rasekoai fact checking Inspector Mphetho’s evidence-in-chief by asking her to confirm that she had indeed said certain statements that had been recorded and presented to the court.

However, things heated up that same afternoon after Mr Rasekoai read Inspector Matekane’s 30 April 2020 report of the alleged crime as well as the witness statements of Messrs Mochoboroane, Moima and DCP Mokete’s three bodyguards.

“So this report does not accurately capture your statement,” Mr Rasekoai asked Inspector Mphetho.

“It does not mention your buttocks being touched or pants torn. It only says you were humiliated and manhandled by my client. There are six people, five of whom are eyewitnesses, who make no mention of your buttocks being touched or pants being torn.

“When Inspector Matekane inspected those pants, did he record anything? Nowhere does Inspector Matekane mention that he inspected pants. So you were even allowed to go home with an item which is the subject of criminal record? You went to the police station twice that day but you only decided to bring the pants the following day. This issue of torn pants is not supported by any evidence,” Mr Rasekoai added.

His questions elicited an angry response from Inspector Mphetho who asked Magistrate Murenzi to intervene and protect  her from the lawyer.

“You (Rasekoai) wrote in your notes what you like not what I said. The actual recording should be played because it seems you captured my testimony in a manner that suits your own interests. I now need the intervention of the court,” Inspector Mphetho said.

An equally agitated Mr Rasekoai then accused Inspector Mphetho of disrespecting him.

“I have never been disrespected this much by a witness in my 13 years as a lawyer. She is being uncouth and I seek the court’s protection,” Mr Rasekoai said.

Both parties were now engaged in a slanging match prompting Magistrate Murenzi to order them to calm down.

“Let us all calm down and be tolerant to each other. I know that trials of this nature come with emotions. But keep your calm and answer the questions. You (Mphetho) are not an accused person so do not be defensive,” Magistrate Murenzi said.

The court then adjourned for the day and proceedings resumed on Tuesday morning with Mr Rasekoai continuing his cross-examination.

He began by recapping the Monday proceedings and asking Inspector Mphetho to confirm all the averments (formal statements submitted to court). This led to a fresh altercation as Inspector Mphetho insisted on giving detailed responses instead of the “yes or no” responses that Mr Rasekoai was demanding. A fed-up Inspector Mphetho then said she would not answer some of the lawyer’s questions.

Mr Rasekoai asked, “do you agree or disagree with what Honourable Mochoboroane said? Yes, or no? Do you agree with what Mr Moima said? Yes, or no? Do you agree with what the three police officers said? Yes, or no?”

Instead of giving the simple yes or no replies, Inspector Mphetho said, “Honourable Mochoboroane will testify that my buttocks were touched.

“I will not answer what you read to me because I have not seen it (Mochoboroane’s statement). I will only comment after he has testified here in court,” Inspector Mphetho said. She responded in the same manner when asked about Mr Moima and the three police officers’ statements.

Mr Rasekoai then asked the court to record that Inspector Mphetho had declined to answer his questions.

The prosecutor, Advocate Rafoneke, leapt to Inspector Mphetho’s defence, saying Mr Rasekoai had intimidated her with his style of questioning.

“You are intimidating the witness.  Your attitude towards the witness is wrong. You cannot be fighting the witness. I ask the court to bring him (Rasekoai) to order,” Adv Rafoneke said.

Mr Rasekoai shot back by accusing Adv Rafoneke of attacking him. He also asked the court to bring him to order.

“The witness has been hostile and I am not involved in a cat fight with her. I have to be robust. He (Rafoneke) is attacking me now and I ask the court to bring him to order,” Mr Rasekoai charged.

Magistrate Murenzi then adjourned the proceedings to tomorrow for continuation of the cross-examination.

 

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