Kamoli to testify in editor’s shooting trial

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Mohalenyane Phakela

FORMER army commander, Tlali Kamoli, is set to testify in the attempted murder trial of four soldiers in connection with the near-fatal shooting of former Lesotho Times editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri.

Mr Mutungamiri and his wife, Tsitsi, will also testify when the trial finally gets underway next year.

Maseru Senior Resident Magistrate Peter Murenzi yesterday said the much-delayed trial will run from 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11 March 2022 and continue from 25 to 29 April 2022.

This after the prosecutor, Rethabile Setlojoane, presented the pre-trial conference minutes and said that they had agreed with the defence lawyer, Kabelo Letuka, on the aforementioned dates.

Mr Mutungamiri suffered near-fatal gunshot wounds in a July 2016 attack allegedly by the army officers.

Initially five soldiers, namely, Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Colonel Khutlang Mochesane, Nyatso Tšoeunyane, Mochesane Phusumane and Maribe Nathane were charged with the attempted murder of Mr Mutungamiri.

Phusumane was however, turned into a state witness in September 2019 and released from prison.

But the defence lawyers argued that Mr Phusumane should not be a state witness as he was privy to all the defence outlines since he was consulted by the lawyers along with the other accused persons.

According to the pre-trial conference minutes presented in court yesterday, confessions from all the accused soldiers, except for Brigadier Mphaki, will be presented as evidence during the trial. Mr Mutungamiri’s medical report will also be presented along with the police reports from the crime scene among others.

“It is being alleged that on or about 9 July 2016 at or near Ha-Thamae in Maseru, the said accused did each, or all of them, acting in concert or common purpose, unlawfully and intentionally, did an act which is more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence to wit: by firing gunshots at one Lloyd Mutungamiri and inflicting upon the said Lloyd, serious injuries as such committed in an offence of attempted murder.

“The following witnesses will be called on behalf of the crown: Lloyd Mutungamiri, Tsitsi Mutungamiri, Retired Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and Mochesane Phusumane.

“The Crown Counsel will make the opening address introducing his case and the defence counsel will also make opening addresses introducing their defences,” the pre-trial conference minutes state.

The conclusion of the trial will help achieve long-delayed justice for Mr Mutungamiri and the Lesotho Times. The former editor’s July 2016 shooting followed a testing period for this publication during which then Lesotho Times journalist, Keiso Mohloboli, was also summoned for interrogation by police and military officials in connection with a story about the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

The story was about the negotiations for an exit package for the then army commander, Lieutenant-General Kamoli, in line with a Southern African Development Community (SADC) recommendation for his removal from post.

The Lesotho Times’ publisher and chief executive officer, Basildon Peta, was also summoned for questioning and interrogated by a group of about 15 heavily armed mostly military police officials. He was subsequently charged with criminal defamation arising from a complaint laid against the newspaper by Lt-Gen Kamoli over the satirical column, Scrutator. Mr Peta fought the charges all the way through to the Constitutional Court and won after criminal defamation was outlawed by the top court.

Two days after Mr Peta initially appeared in court for bail, Mr Mutungamiri was shot. One bullet broke his right-hand and another shattered his left jaw, requiring him to undergo specialised facial surgery to remove the bullet lodged on his left ear. He also sustained severe eye injuries after broken window glasses entered and cut his eyes, among other injuries.

The police later said their investigations had revealed that the attempted assassination of Mr Mutungamiri was an operation entirely authorised by the army then under Lt-Gen Kamoli’s command.

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