THE trial of four police officers accused of the March 2016 murder of their colleague, Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng, once again failed to proceed in the High Court on Tuesday this week.
The postponement was due to the unavailability of presiding judge, Justice Charles Hungwe, and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, who was not ready to proceed with the trial.
In this case, former Hlotse Police Station Commander, Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, is charged alongside Superintendent Mathibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and Sub-Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane for PC Khetheng’s murder. The four officers have been in remand prison since their arrest in 2017. The other defendant is former Commissioner of Police Molahlehi Letsoepa, whose trial was separated from this quartet as he is still on the run.
The case had been set down for 5 to 28 September 2023, but Justice Tšeliso Mokoko on Tuesday postponed it to 11 September 2023 on behalf of Justice Hungwe. He did not say why Justice Hungwe was not in court.
“Counsels, I have been requested to postpone the matter because Justice Hungwe is not available this week. The matter is postponed to 11 September 2023,” said Justice Mokoko.
Meanwhile, the case last proceeded before Justice Hungwe in February this year when Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Tšeliso Moerane was testifying that then police boss (Letsoepa), had ordered PC Khetheng’s assassination.
From there, the trial was marred by several postponements, first due to the withdrawal of prosecutors Shaun Abrahams and Motene Rafoneke, in June this year.
Justice Hungwe then had to force DPP Motinyane to take over the case’s prosecution but she also asked for time to familiarise herself with the case on 3 August.
However, she was still not ready to proceed this week, and asked the court to grant her more time to get the transcribed recordings of the trial from High Court and Court of Appeal registrar, ‘Mathato Sekoai.
DPP Motinyane informed the court she had since written to Advocate Sekoai asking for the records in question.
“This matter was to continue today until 29 September. However, after the (3 August) postponement, I wrote a letter to the registrar of this court (Sekoai) asking to be provided with the transcribed record of proceedings. She wrote back to say we should give her an external hard-drive and unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do that.
“But I will do so before this day (Tuesday) ends. I have already communicated with the assistant registrar, Edwin Maiketso,” submitted DPP Motinyane.
Police Constable Khetheng was last seen alive as he was being arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe, on 25 March 2016. He was arrested on allegations he had torched the house of his superior in Mokhotlong district where he was deployed.
At the time, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service had argued that PC Khetheng left the Hlotse Police Station without permission and as a result, they did not know his whereabouts. However, the Khetheng family argued the police should know where he was because they had arrested him. PC Khetheng’s remains were eventually exhumed at Lepereng Cemetery in the Maseru district on 11 August 2017 after the police had been granted a court order for the exhumation. The order was issued in the wake of investigations into the constable’s disappearance and suspected murder.
Senior Superintendent Tšukulu, Superintendent Mofolo, Inspector Matona and PC Taasoane were subsequently arrested for PC Khetheng’s alleged murder.