Moleleki, Kamoli, Mokhosi to testify in Khetheng murder trial

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Mohalenyane Phakela

FORMER Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki, former army commander Tlali Kamoli and former Defence and National Security Minister, Tšeliso Mokhosi, are set to testify against four police officers accused of murdering their colleague, Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng in March 2016.

According to a witness list seen by the Lesotho Times this week, Messrs Moleleki, Mokhosi, Kamoli and former National Security Services (NSS) director general, Mohlakala Lerotholi, are among 53 witnesses who have been lined up by the state to testify in the murder case.

At the time of PC Khetheng’s murder, Mr Moleleki, who now leads the opposition Alliance of Democrats (AD), was Police and Public Safety minister in the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties coalition which lasted from March 2015 to June 2017.

PC Khetheng was last seen alive while being arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016.

PC Khetheng had been arrested and charged on allegations that he torched the house of his superior in Mokhotlong district where he was deployed.

The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) had at the time argued that PC Khetheng had left the Hlotse Police Station without permission and they did not know where he was. For its part, the Khetheng family argued that 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. This after the police were granted a court order by the Magistrate’s Court in light of the investigations into his disappearance and suspected murder.

Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, the Hlotse Police Station Commander, was subsequently arrested and charged along with the other three police officers over PC Khetheng’s murder.

His three co-accused are Superintendent Mathibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and PC Haleokoe Taasoane.

Mr Mokhosi was initially accused alongside the four officers but the charges were dropped on 6 July 2020 and he was turned into a state witness.

Meanwhile, SSP Tšukulu’s three co-accused risk going without legal representation when their trial resumes on 5 May 2021.

This after they this week rejected Advocate Thulo Hoeane who had on Tuesday been appointed by the state to represent them on a pro deo basis. This is an arrangement where the state selects and pays the legal fees for a lawyer to represent suspects who cannot afford to pay for themselves.

The state appointed Adv Hoeane to represent the trio after their lawyer, Adv Zwelakhe Mda, last week tendered a sick leave note indicating that he had been found unfit to work by his doctor for 10 days starting from 22 April 2021.

The trio however, rejected Adv Hoeane. They insisted that Adv Mda was still their lawyer and they were therefore unwilling to replace him.

This prompted the presiding Judge Charles Hungwe to issue a stern warning that “the right to legal representation is not absolute”.

Justice Hungwe then said they risked being without a lawyer in the event that Adv Mda was still ill-disposed come 5 May 2021.

However, Senior Supt Tšukulu agreed to be represented by Adv Khosi Lesutu on a pro deo basis. SSP Tšukulu had on Friday been dumped by his previous lawyer Adv Karabo Mohau. Adv Mohau, who was also a pro deo lawyer, told Justice Hungwe that he was no longer willing to represent Senior Supt Tšukulu because he had not been paid anything to date by the state for his services.

The trial kicked off last Thursday with the four accused being asked to plead. Adv Mohau was present at the time and instructed SSP Tšukulu to plead “not guilty” to the murder charges.

Adv Mda was absent on that day and Adv Mohau told the court that the former had asked him to notify the court that he was ill. Supt Mofolo, Inspector Matona and PC Taasoane were also asked to plead but they refused arguing that they could not do so in the absence of their lawyer, Adv Mda. However, Justice Hungwe entered “not guilty” pleas on their behalf.

Adv Mda’s sick note was presented to the court by Adv Mohau the next day. However, Justice Hungwe was having none of it. He said Adv Mda should have made arrangements for another lawyer to stand in for him. He ordered that the trial should continue in Adv Mda’s absence.

When it was expected that the crown would call its first witness, Adv Mohau suddenly withdrew his representation of Senior Supt Tšukulu. Justice Hungwe was then forced to postpone the matter to Tuesday to allow the state to appoint pro deo lawyers for all four accused police officers.

On Tuesday, Supt Mofolo, Insp Matona and PC Taasoane consulted among themselves for five minutes before informing the court that they were unwilling to accept Adv Hoeane who had been appointed by the state in place of Adv Mda to represent them.

Addressing the court after being rejected by the trio, Adv Hoeane said, “while the first accused (Tšukulu) acknowledges that he will be represented by Adv Lesutu, the rest say they are represented by Mr Mda and to their knowledge nothing has changed, which means my business is done here”.

“I put it to them that they will represent themselves should Mr Mda be absent during the next court date ….They insist on Mr Mda being their lawyer and say that they will cross the bridge when they get to the next hearing date,” added Adv Hoeane.

Justice Hungwe then told the three police officers that the trial will proceed on 5 May 2021 even if their lawyer is absent. He said they risked being without legal representation should Adv Mda fail to make it to court. He however, asked Adv Hoeane to be present in court on 5 May 2021 in case the trio changed their minds and accepted him to replace Adv Mda.

“The right to legal counsel is not absolute. The accused will be prosecuted even if they do not have lawyers. I ask that you (Adv Hoeane) be in court on the next date just in case Mr Mda does not show up,” Justice Hungwe ordered.

He also said the trial will resume on 5 to 7 May and continue from 18 to 21 May 2021.

 

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