High Court judge blasts lawyers

MASERU — High Court judge Thamsanqa Nomncongo this week lashed out at crown and defence lawyers for delaying proceedings in the trial of eight police officers who are charged with murder.

The police officers are accused of killing the principal chief of Phamong Bereng Letsie Bereng seven years ago.

The case was first heard in the High Court in August 2006.

It has been postponed on numerous occasions.

But when the court reconvened on Tuesday, Justice Nomncongo blamed crown and defence lawyers for delaying the case.

“This case has been in court for quite a long time. It is proceeding at a snail’s pace and we cannot afford to lose time,” Nomncongo said.

The crown is represented by Pingla Hemraj but on Tuesday, Thapelo Mokuku stood in for her as she was not available.

All the eight accused are represented by Advocate Zwelakhe Mda.

Trooper Tsépo Serabele narrated to the court how he found Bereng’s body lying in a pool of blood after he was shot.

“After the shooting stopped I approached him (Bereng). He was lying prostrate on the ground and he was covered in blood. I did not fully examine his body but I rushed to the office to fetch surgeon gloves and a camera.

“Upon my return I took pictures and we rushed him to the hospital as he was then still alive,” Serabele said.

Bereng died on the same night at the hospital.

Serabele told the court that he went to the shooting scene after he received a message from a police radio to assist colleagues arrest a dangerous man.

He said he was not aware that the “dangerous man” was the principal chief.

“But the message was that the man was dangerous because he had already shot a policeman,” Serabele said.

Serabele said upon arrival at the shooting area he was forced to take cover because the shooting was still in progress.

Earlier on the court heard that Bereng and the police officers had been involved in a row near the BP garage at Lakeside on the night of the shooting.

The police had earlier on stopped Bereng’s vehicle which did not bear any registration plates on that night.

The vehicle had a special permit.

Evidence presented in court said Bereng shot one police officer who approached his vehicle.

Bereng then allegedly drove away to Lithabaneng.

The shot police officer, identified as Trooper Mokhothu, was driven to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru.

The police then launched a manhunt for Bereng.

Paul Matooase, who was driving Bereng’s car, told the court that he increased speed after realising that he was being followed by the police.

“But when we arrived at Lekhalaneng the police started shooting at us. The bullets started hitting my vehicle until I reached IEMS where I could no longer control the vehicle. It overturned but I managed to escape.

“I ran past the NTTC (now called Lesotho College of Education) to Lower Thamae. I did not know what happened to Ntate Selala (Bereng) but I could still hear gun shots,” Matooase said.

The evidence presented in court said the police shot Bereng near LDTC after he tried to flee from his overturned twin cab vehicle.

A private ballistic expert, Kobus Duplessis, told the court that Bereng’s body had 10 wounds.

“The wounds show that he was shot when he was trying to duck,” Duplessis said.

One wound was on the hand with which he was holding a 9mm pistol which he is alleged to have used to shoot back at the police. The case continues.

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