THE attempted murder trial of former army commander Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Tlali Kamoli and four other soldiers failed to take off on Monday due to the absence of their lawyers.
Lt-Gen Kamoli’s co-accused are Major Pitso Ramoepane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Sergeant Heqoa Malefane and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko.
They face attempted murder charges in connection with the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.
They appeared before Zimbabwean judge Charles Hungwe who postponed the case to 29 September 2020 due to the absence of their lawyers.
Lt-Gen Kamoli is represented by Advocate Letuka Molati while Major Ramoepane is represented by Adv Karabo Mohau. Captain Nyakane is represented by Adv Motiea Teele while Sergeant Malefane and Corporal Seitlheko are represented by Adv Zwelakhe Mda.
During their court appearance on Monday, Lt-Gen Kamoli and his co-accused said they did not know the whereabouts of their lawyers.
This prompted Justice Hungwe to postpone the case to 29 September 2020, by which date it is expected that all the lawyers would be in court.
Although Lt-Gen Kamoli and his co-accused claimed they did not know the whereabouts of their lawyers, some court officials believe that this could be part of their tactics of delaying their trials for as long as possible in the hope that the government will collapse and be replaced by one that will permanently stop their trials.
Lt-Gen Kamoli and other high-profile suspects have tried several methods to delay their trials including filing applications to stop Justice Hungwe and other foreign judges from presiding over their trials. They unsuccessfully sought the removal of the foreign judges on the grounds that they had been recruited by the government and not the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in contravention of the laws stating that the JSC is the body tasked with the recruitment of judges.
When this failed, they launched several ultimately unsuccessful applications for the recusal of the judges on the grounds they would be biased against them.
Political parties like the Democratic Congress and Lesotho Congress for Democracy had also demanded the halting of all high-profile trials until after the full implementation of the multi-sector reforms.
They argued that the suspects were political prisoners and not criminal suspects.
They said they would not get fair trials under the current judiciary which was allegedly captured by the main ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC). They said it was therefore imperative to postpone the trials until after the implementation of judicial reforms to ensure the accused got fair trials.
The opposition parties had made the halting of all trials of high-profile trials as a precondition for their participation in the multi-sector sector reforms process.
They eventually dropped the demand after the intervention of Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders in 2018. SADC is mediating between the government and opposition to ensure the successful implementation of the constitutional. Security sector, constitutional, judicial, media and governance reforms seen as crucial in achieving lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.