Fourth Christmas in jail for Kamoli

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Mohalenyane Phakela

MURDER-ACCUSED former army commander, Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Tlali Kamoli, will spend his fourth Christmas behind bars at the Maseru Central Correctional Institution (MCCI).

Among other crimes, Lt-Gen Kamoli is accused of the June 2015 murder of army commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao.

Zimbabwean Judge Charles Hungwe had been expected to commence the trial when Lt-Gen Kamoli and his co-accused appeared before him on Monday.

But he was unable to do so because of Lt-Gen Kamoli and others’ pending Constitutional Court application for a permanent stay of their trials.

They also want an order declaring that Justice Hungwe and fellow foreign Judge Onkemetse Tshosa (from Botswana) are unfit to preside over their trials.

In the Lt-Gen Mahao murder case, Lt-Gen Kamoli’s co-accused are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako and Corporals Marasi ‘Moleli, Motšoane Machai, Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Tšitso Ramoholi.

Former National Security Services (NSS) director and head of Military Intelligence, Tumo Lekhooa, was also roped in among the accused but he has not attended any court session since he fled the country in 2017.

The 10 are accused of acting in common intention or purpose to murder Lt-Gen Mahao on 25 June 2015 in Mokema, Maseru.

They are also accused of attempting to murder Lt-Gen Mahao’s nephews, Mahao Mahao and Mabilikoe Leuta, who were with the army chief at the time of his assassination.

They are also charged with damaging Lt-Gen Mahao’s vehicle during the same operation by firing at it with automatic rifles.

Lt-Gen Kamoli is further charged with the theft of Lt-Gen Mahao’s 9mm pistol and a Samsung Galaxy mobile phone.

During their appearance before Justice Hungwe on Monday, Crown Counsel Advocate ‘Naki Nku asked that their trial be deferred until after the finalisation of their constitutional application.

“I wish to make the court aware that there is a constitutional case where the accused are seeking a permanent stay of their trials, including this case,” Adv Nku said.

“Cases similarly circumstanced have already been postponed and I also pray that this one be postponed to allow the finalisation of that constitutional matter. I therefore ask the court to postpone this matter to 5 February 2021,” added Adv Nku.

Defence lawyers, Advocates Kabelo Letuka, Molise Molise, Bolelang Mokoatle and Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, all concurred with Adv Nku and Justice Hungwe resolved to postpone the trial to 5 February 2021.

“In light of the submissions made by the counsels, this matter is postponed to 5 February 2021 for mention. In the interim, Crown Counsel Adv Nku should give the court a progress report on the constitutional application so that we bring the trial date closer if it is so required,” Justice Hungwe ordered.

The Zimbabwean judge also postponed to 5 February 2021, the trial of four police officers accused of murdering their colleague, Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng, in March 2016.

The four police officers are Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Superintendent Mothibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and Police Constable Haleokoe Taasoane. Their case was also postponed due to the fact that they are among the members of the security agencies who filed the constitutional application to stop their trials.

All in all, there are 28 applicants including Lt-Gen Kamoli who have petitioned the Constitutional Court to have their trials permanently stopped. In the application, Lt-Gen Kamoli repeats the old arguments that he is chronically ill and therefore should be freed on bail pending the finalisation of his and others’ constitutional application.

He however, does not disclose the nature of his alleged illness but alleges that his continued detention under “inhuman” conditions is further compromising his health.

He also argues that he should be freed because he has “lost all hope that I will receive a fair trial”.

However, in her answering affidavit, Adv Nku argues that Lt-Gen Kamoli’s allegations should be dismissed because as in previous cases, he fails to disclose the nature of his illness. Adv Nku prosecutes several high-profile cases including Lt-Gen Kamoli and others’ trial for the June 2015 murder of Lt-Gen Mahao and their attempted murder case in connection with the January 2014 simultaneous bombings of former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane and then police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana’s homes.

“The deponent is alleging that he is sick. He made the same statement when he applied for bail (in 2017) and it was refused by Justice (Teboho) Moiloa because he had not shown any exceptional circumstances,” Adv Nku says in her court papers.

“He is not telling this court the name of chronic disease he had been diagnosed with just like he did in his refused bail petition. He leaves it to this court to winkle out the exact meaning of this loaded statement that he is sick from obscurity.”

Adv Nku said Lt-Gen Kamoli and others had also resuscitated their bid to get rid of Justice Hungwe on the grounds that he is allegedly biased against them. This despite a similar application having been dismissed by the High Court and the Court of Appeal “and this renders it unnecessary to consider the allegations framed in that fashion again”.

Adv Nku also argued that Lt-Gen Kamoli’s co-accused’s habit of frequently changing their lawyers had led to the frequent delays in trying their cases. Hence, they had no justification for seeking to have their trials permanently stopped on the grounds that the courts had taken too long to try them, she argued.

Meanwhile, Justice Tshosa has also postponed the trial of 10 soldiers accused of the 16 May 2017 murder of three civilians in Maseru to 26 January 2021. The postponement is due to the constitutional application they filed alongside Lt-Gen Kamoli and others to stop their trial.

The 10 soldiers are Rapele Mphaki, Lekhooa Moepi, Mahlehle Moeletsi, Mahlomola Makhoali, Nthatakane Motanyane, Motšoane Machai, Tieho Tikiso, Pitso Ramoepane, Liphapang Sefako and Nemase Faso.

They allegedly strangled Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela and Khothatso Makibinyane at Setibing in rural Maseru on 16 May 2017 and dumped their bodies in the Mohale Dam.

The soldiers allegedly kidnapped and murdered the three men after the trio had just been released from police custody where they were detained in connection with a shooting incident that occurred at the Maseru border gate on 13 May last year.

Just like Lt-Gen Kamoli, the accused soldiers have been in remand prison since 2017 when they were arrested. They have been denied bail on several occasions due to the seriousness of the allegations against them and their failure to prove exceptional circumstances warranting bail.

 

 

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