Lawyer applies for discharge in Tang murder trial

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Mohalenyane Phakela

JUSTICE Kabelo Lebotse yesterday reserved judgement to 5 March 2020 in the trial of three soldiers accused of murdering Lisebo Tang on 9 May 2014.

The three soldiers are Tjekane Sebolai, Selone Ratšiu and Kopano Matsoso. They are charged with the murder of Ms Tang, the attempted murder of her companion, Tšepo Jane, damaging the latter’s vehicle as well as defeating the ends of justice.

The shooting incident happened on the night of 9 May 2014 when the three soldiers were guarding the Ha-Leqele, Maseru residence of then army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli. Mr Jane had parked his vehicle next to Lt-Gen Kamoli’s residence when the soldiers shot at it, killing Ms Tang and injuring him.

Prior to reserving judgement, Justice Lebotse, listened to the state and defence counsels’ arguments, including the latter’s petition for the acquittal of one of the soldiers, Kopano Matsoso, on the grounds that there was no evidence linking him to the crimes they are charged with.

Defence lawyer, Advocate Sello Tṧabeha, told the court that none of the witnesses who testified in court gave evidence linking Matsoso to the crimes.

“Accused number three (Matsoso) is only being charged as an accessory in that he did not report the matter to the police after it occurred and there is no evidence which proves that he acted in furtherance of a common purpose,” Adv Tṧabeha said.

“The Crown presented the evidence of 12 witnesses and five the witnesses’ statements were admitted. Only three out of the seven who took the stand arrived at the crime scene and none of them said Accused number three (Matsoso) was at the crime scene. They said he was at the sentry which was inside the Kamoli compound while the crime scene was said to be a few meters away. Section 175 (3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act of 1981 states that the accused shall be acquitted of charges when the state closes its case and has failed to establish a prima facie (instant) case against him.

“The failure of an officer to report a crime does not amount to criminal liability. Furthermore, (one of the accused) Sebolai reported the incident to Lieutenant Moletsane who was the officer commanding duties at that time and the latter then reported the matter to the police after visiting the crime scene. Two assault rifles were presented in court as those which were used in the crime and none is linked to Accused number three (Matsoso). We therefore ask that he be discharged from the charges,” argued Adv Tṧabeha.

However, Crown Counsel, Adv Lepeli Molapo countered by arguing that soldiers act in common purpose when given the same task and therefore Matsoso could not be discharged from the case.

“The evidence of Moletsane links Accused number three (Matsoso) to the crimes as he said that when soldiers are given a task, they do it together in that they have to consult each other. The charges fall under the doctrine of common purpose in that they were together when Accused one and two (Sebolai and Ratṧiu) took guns and went to shoot at the vehicle.

“The accused all shared a common purpose. It is just that one had to be left at the sentry guarding it. Matsoso also failed to remove himself from the crime as he should have immediately called the police,” Adv Molapo said.

After listening to both lawyers’ arguments, Justice Lebotse reserved judgement to 5 March 2020.

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