Hungwe contract extended
THE Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has finally renewed Zimbabwean judge, Charles Hungwe’s contract.
JSC secretary, ‘Mathato Sekoai yesterday confirmed the development, saying the contract had been extended to 28 February 2022. This clears the way for him to continue presiding over the high-profile trials of politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies.
“Justice Hungwe’s contract has been renewed until 28 February 2022,” Advocate Sekoai said in a brief interview with the Lesotho Times.
She was responding to our inquiries following Justice Hungwe’s appearance in court on Monday. There had been no official communication as to whether his contract had been renewed or not.
His availability to preside over the trials had been thrown into doubt after the 31 October 2021 expiry of his contract.
But he showed up on Monday and proceeded to set down the hearing dates for the various cases that he is presiding over.
He said he will today preside over Senior Superintendent Thabo Tsukulu and three other police officers’ trial for the March 2016 murder of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng. Senior Supt Tsukulu’s co-accused are Inspector Mathibeli Mofolo, Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona and Sub-Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane.
Justice Hungwe said he would on Monday set the dates for the continuation of former army commander, Tlali Kamoli’s separate murder and attempted murder trials.
Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Kamoli is accused of the June 2015 murder of army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao.
His co-accused are 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.
Former Director of Military Intelligence, Lieutenant Colonel Tumo Lekhooa, is also an accused in the Mahao murder case but he has never appeared in court after he fled the country in 2017.
In another case, Lt-Gen Kamoli and four other soldiers are accused of attempted murder over the January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the houses of former First Lady, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, and former Police Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.
Lt-Gen Kamoli’s co-accused in that case are Major Pitso Ramoepane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Sergeant Malefane Heqoa and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko.
“These matters are postponed to 22 November 2021 in order to set dates for the continuation of the trials,” Justice Hungwe said.
Before that, Justice Hungwe had refused to answer a question from one of the defence lawyers, Karabo Mohau, who had asked if the judge’s contract had been renewed.
“We read in the newspapers that His Lordship’s contract had expired so I wanted to find out the position of his Lordship regarding the issue,” Adv Mohau said.
In reply, Justice Hungwe said the question should be directed to the JSC.
“Let us not go by the newspapers please. That is an administrative issue and if you want clarity, you should approach the JSC regarding the matter,” Justice Hungwe said.
Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane, who chairs the JSC which recruited Justice Hungwe in 2019, had blamed the government for failing to provide the funds to continue paying his salary. Law and Justice Minister, Lekhetho Rakuoane, subsequently washed his hands off the matter, saying it was up to the JSC and the European Union (EU) to resolve the matter. The EU is responsible for paying Justice Hungwe’s salary and it has said it stands ready to continue paying him until he has finalised all the cases before him.
Yesterday, Minister Rakuoane said although the JSC had not informed him of the latest developments regarding Justice Hungwe’s situation, he nevertheless welcomed the fact that the judge had resumed his duties.