High profile trials resume as Abrahams, Hungwe return

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Mohalenyane Phakela

THE high-profile trials of politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies are back on track and will continue in the High Court.

This after the lead prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, returned to work this week.

The trials had been in limbo after Advocate Abrahams had resigned in September 2021 over the government’s failure to pay his salary.

Zimbabwean Judge, Charles Hungwe, had also stopped presiding over some of the trials following the expiry of his contract on 31 October 2021.

Justice Hungwe eventually returned to work last week after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) renewed his contract.

Adv Abrahams had been conspicuous by his absence from the High Court since the end of September when he said he was stepping down due to “administrative differences” with the government.

This was merely a euphemism for the government’s failure to pay him his outstanding salaries which had accumulated to the princely sum of M9, 9 million.

The South African prosecutor was hired by the previous Thomas Thabane-led governing coalition. However, the current Moeketsi Majoro-led coalition has baulked at paying what it says is his astronomical wage bill.  Last month, Law and Justice principal secretary, Retšelisitsoe Mohale, even told the Lesotho Times that they were not happy with Adv Abrahams’ “huge wage bill” and they were mulling the termination of his contract or “reviewing it so that it best serves the interests of Basotho”.

However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to retain Adv Abrahams’s services, saying it would be “highly regrettable” to let him go when he had already done a lot of work including interviewing and engaging several witnesses to testify on behalf of the state.

It now appears that DPP Motinyane has had her way after Adv Abrahams resumed his duties early this week.

Adv Abrahams has confirmed his return, saying he was back to finalise the cases he was prosecuting.

“I have accepted brief to proceed with these trials and this is purely in the interests of justice,” Adv Abrahams said in an interview with the Lesotho Times.

“I am back for all the matters I had been hired to prosecute. I am here to finalise all the cases. All I can say is the issues we had (with the government) have been resolved,” Adv Abrahams added.

Following his return to work, Adv Abrahams will tomorrow be prosecuting the case of Senior Superintendent Thabo Tsukulu and three other police officers who are accused of the March 2016 murder of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng. Senior Supt Tsukulu is accused alongside Senior Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and Sub-Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane.

Another case that Adv Abrahams is prosecuting is former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and others’ attempted murder trial in connection with the simultaneous bombings of the houses of former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane and former Commissioner of Police Khothatso Tsooana on 27 January 2014.

Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Kamoli’s co-accused are Major Pitso Ramoepane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Sergeant Malefane Heqoa and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko.

Justice Hungwe on Monday set 14 to 25 March 2022 as the trial dates for the case.

Adv Abrahams is prosecuting Lt-Gen Kamoli, Captain Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko, and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi for the 25 June 2015 murder of army commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao.

The trial will proceed before Justice Hungwe from 24 to 28 January 2022 and 4 to 14 April 2022.

This means that Lt-Gen Kamoli and his co-accused will spend their fifth Christmas in remand prison since their 2017 arrests.

Adv Abrahams is also prosecuting other two cases before Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane and Judge Moroke Mokhesi.

The case before Justice Sakoane is the treason and murder trial of politicians Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane. They are accused alongside Lt-Gen Kamoli, Captain Nyakane as well as Lance Corporals Leutsoa Motsieloa and Motloheloa Ntsane. The case will proceed on 6 December 2021 when Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane are expected to appear in the dock alongside their fellow accused. This after the two politicians last week lost their High Court bid to stop DPP Motinyane from joining them to the case. Justice Sakoane dismissed their argument that they could not be joined to a case that was already in progress.

Justice Mokhesi is presiding over the murder trial of Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Major Pitso Ramoepane, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Private Nthatakane Motanyane, Motšoane Machai, Tieho Tikiso, Liphapang Sefako and Nemase Faso.

The 10 soldiers allegedly strangled Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela and Khothatso Makibinyane at Setibing in rural Maseru on 16 May 2017 and dumped them in the Mohale Dam.

They 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 2017

This matter has been set down for hearing on 2 February 2022.

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