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Matela’s murder trial postponed

by Lesotho Times
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Moorosi Tsiane

JUDGE Tšeliso Mokoko will on 14 December 2022 rule on whether lawyer, Lepeli Molapo, should continue representing his murder-accused client, Qamo Matela.

This follows Adv Molapo’s decision last week to petition Justice Mokoko to order a trial within a trial to enable him to take to the witness stand and testify that that he was not present when the police recorded a statement from his client wherein the latter had “confessed” to assaulting his now deceased wife.

Adv Molapo made the application in response to a testimony by police Detective Inspector Moeketsi Moeketsi, who had told the court that he (Molapo) was present when his client confessed to assaulting his wife. He denied being present when Matela allegedly confessed and said a trial within a trial would enable him to clear his name.

Matela is accused of murdering his wife, ‘Mahlompho Matela, (nee Rethabile Mofolo) in September 2021. She died after being allegedly assaulted by Matela.

When the trial proceeded last Thursday, Inspector Moeketsi told the court that on 15 September 2021 he had received a report about Matela assaulting his wife from the now deceased woman’s sister, Rorisang Mofolo.  He said shortly afterwards, Adv Molapo came to his Mabote Police Station office and asked him not to send his officers to arrest Matela. The lawyer promised to bring his client to the station, Insp Moeketsi said.

He said later that same day, Adv Molapo arrived with Matela as per his promise. He said Matela subsequently confessed to assaulting his wife and Adv Molapo was present when the confession was made.

However, Adv Molapo accused him of lying that he (Molapo) was present during the said interrogation. Since Inspector Moeketsi was implicating him, Adv Molapo said there would be need for a trial within a trial to allow him to take to the witness stand and defend himself.

When the trial resumed on Monday, Adv Molapo was not in court. Adv Limakatso Mokhatholane, who stood in for him, said that he was willing to step down as Matela’s lawyer and give evidence in a trial within a trial because he had been “implicated” by Detective Inspector Moeketsi’s evidence last week.

“My Lord, we submit that the defence counsel (Molapo) intends to testify in a trial within a trial,” Adv Mokhatholane said.

“There will be no conflict of interest as he will not be testifying against his client.

“Adv Molapo wants to testify against the evidence by the third witness, Insp Moeketsi, which incriminates him. The prosecution should not have led its witness (Inspector Moeketsi) in a way that implicates a legal practitioner (Molapo)

“The prosecution owed a courtesy to the defence to warn them that the evidence of third witness will involve the defence lawyer, especially as such evidence doesn’t appear on the statements submitted on record,” she added.

The Crown Counsel, Pelea Joala, counter-argued that a trial within a trial cannot be separated from the main trial. Therefore, Adv Molapo cannot be a witness and a lawyer in the same case, Adv Joala argued.

He said Adv Molapo should decide whether he wants to be Matela’s lawyer or a witness in the case.

“You cannot separate a trial within a trial from the main trial. Once he (Molapo) testifies, he has engaged himself as a witness in the trial. He cannot comeback at a later stage in the main trial as a lawyer.

“Once he testifies, he should permanently be stopped from taking charge as a legal representative in these proceedings. The witness testified on the facts and nothing was barring us from leading such evidence,” Adv Joala said.

Judge Mokoko then adjourned the court to 14 December 2022.

“The court will have to make a ruling on the route the defence wants to take. The matter will be postponed to 14 December 2022,” Justice Mokoko said.

Matela made headlines in September 2021 after being accused of murdering his wife, ‘Mahlompho. It is alleged that he beat in anger after she allegedly failed to give his mother M20 she had requested from her on 3 September 2021.

Ms Matela was initially ferried to Maseru Private Hospital before being transferred to Pelonomi Hospital, Bloemfontein, where she died on 11 September 2021.

The trial started in September this year.

Two witnesses, namely Lekhooa Monaleli (a family friend) and Rorisang Mofolo (the later Mahlompho’s sister) have already told the court that Matela used to abuse his now deceased wife.

 

 

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