JUDGE Charles Hungwe has thrown out former army commander, Tlali Kamoli’s application for his recusal from presiding over the latter’s attempted murder trial.
The trial is in connection with the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane’s Moshoeshoe II home and the Ha-Abia residence of the then police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.
Kamoli’s co-accused are Pitso Ramoepane, Litekanyo Nyakane, Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Heqoa Malefane.
Kamoli had sought the judge’s recusal on the grounds that he was unlikely to give him a fair hearing.
He based his application on Justice Hungwe’s insistence on proceeding with the trial in the absence of his lawyer, Letuka Molati, who had failed to show up in court on 16 March 2022 when the trial was supposed to begin.
On that day, another defence lawyer, Adv Napo Mafaesa, who is representing Kamoli’s co-accused, told the court he had notified Adv Molati of the trial dates and did not know why he was not before court.
Justice Hungwe then ruled that he would proceed with the trial in the absence of Adv Molati. This did not go down well with Kamoli who then asked for an opportunity to address the court. He accused Justice Hungwe of prejudging him and treating him unfairly. He subsequently filed his recusal application.
His application was on Monday dismissed by Justice Hungwe. Handing down the verdict, Justice Hungwe said judges were duty-bound to act with integrity and impartiality. They relied solely on facts and not on inaccurate or incomplete information.
He said it was wrong for Kamoli to assume he would be biased simply because he had wanted to proceed with the trial in the absence of the ex-soldier’s lawyer.
He said he had arrived at that decision due to Advocates Molati and Mafaesa’s contradictory statements after Adv Molati’s no show without even bothering to inform the court first.
“The directive that the applicant will self-represent himself until his counsel (Molati) rejoined the proceedings must be assessed in the context of circumstances where the counsel chose to absent himself without cause,” Justice Hungwe said.
“His (Molati’s) chosen correspondent Mr Mafaesa did not help matters as he never at any stage took the court or anyone in his confidence about the reasons behind his absence.
“What aggravated the situation was the fact that when Mr Molati eventually appeared, he gave an explanation which contradicted what Mr Mafaesa had said.
“If Mr Molati indeed consulted Mr Mafaesa on the preceding Saturday regarding his doctor’s appointment how does anyone explain why Mr Mafaesa did not advise the court on this important information?
“In other words, one must ask why an officer of the court misled the court and said that Mr Molati was on his way to Court when in fact he was somewhere else. Clearly one of them chose to be economic with the truth.
“Judges are under strong professional pressure to act with integrity or impartiality. They do not rely on inaccurate or incomplete information or rely solely on facts known to only one party.
“Ultimately the question to ask is whether a reasonable and an informed person with the knowledge of the relevant circumstances viewing the matter realistically and practically would conclude that the judge’s conduct (in ruling that the trial should continue) could give a reasonable apprehension of bias. I am unable to answer this question in the affirmative and therefore I will dismiss the application…” Judge Hungwe ruled.
He then postponed the attempted murder tri