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Judge’s prolonged absence delays treason trial

by Lesotho Times

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE much-anticipated treason and murder trial of politicians Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane as well as former army commander Tlali Kamoli and others has been postponed yet again due to the prolonged absence of the presiding Judge Onkemetse Tshosa.

Justice Tshosa is still holed up in his native Botswana where he is said to be attending to undisclosed personal business.

It had been expected that Justice Tshosa, who has been away for a month, would be present in court on Monday for the trial to finally begin. However, his Zimbabwean counterpart, Justice Charles Hungwe, said he would now be available on 11 June 2021 hence the latest postponement to that date.

“I communicated with Justice Tshosa this morning and he said he would still not be available this week,” Justice Hungwe said in the High Court on Monday.

“He (Tshosa) therefore asked me to postpone the trial to next week on 11 June 2021.”

Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane, who last month lost their Court of Appeal bid to stop the state from trying them at least until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms, were not in court on Monday.

Only the lead prosecutor, South African Advocate Shaun Abrahams and Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s lawyer, Adv Letuka Molati, were on hand to note the postponement of the trial.

Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane and Lt-Gen Kamoli are charged alongside Captain Litekanyo Nyakane and Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.

This is the third time the matter has been postponed due to Justice Tshosa’s absence. Justice Hungwe first postponed the matter on 17 May 2021. He postponed it to 24 May 2021 and again to 31 May 2021 in the belief that Justice Tshosa would have returned from Botswana.

The treason charges are in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Mr Metsing, who leads the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), was deputy prime minister at the time of the attempted coup while Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader and current Development Planning Minister Mochoboroane was Communications minister and LCD secretary general at the time. Lt-Gen Kamoli had been fired by Mr Thabane from his post as army commander on 29 August 2014 before allegedly orchestrating the attempted coup allegedly with the support of Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane, Captain Nyakane and Lance Corporals Ntsane and Motsieloa. Messrs Thabane and Metsing had fallen out with the latter alleging he was not being consulted on key decisions.

The murder case is in connection with the killing of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko which occurred during the same attempted coup against Mr Thabane’s government on 30 August 2014.

In a related development, Justice Hungwe also postponed to 11 June 2021 the trial of 10 soldiers accused of murdering three Maseru civilians in 2017.

The 10 soldiers are 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.

They 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.

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 2017.

Their trial is also before Justice Tshosa.

It remains to be seen if the trials will be finalised due to the government’s moves to enact a law to facilitate the establishment of a Transitional Justice Commission (TJC) which will among other things, consider pardoning politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies who are accused of various crimes.

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