THE trial of two police officers accused of murdering Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) auditor, Thibello Nteso, took an unexpected twist this week amid revelations by the prosecution that it had stumbled on new evidence.
Two members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS)’ Special Operations Unit (SOU), Police Constables Moeketsi Dlamini and Monaheng ‘Musi are accused of murdering Mr Nteso on 6 February 2017.
They face an additional charge of malicious damage to property for allegedly damaging the deceased’s vehicle.
They were initially charged alongside Superintendent Tlali Phatela and Senior Inspector Thaele Ramajoe who allegedly ordered the cover-up of the murder by tampering with the crime scene. However, Inspector Ramajoe and Supt Phatela were acquitted the charges in March this year after the court ruled that there was not enough evidence linking them to the crime.
High Court Judge Moroke Mokhesi was ready to deliver judgement when the court convened on Monday. But he had to postpone at the last minute after Crown Counsel, Advocate ‘Naki Nku, submitted that the prosecution had discovered new evidence which had initially been concealed by one of the witnesses.
Adv Nku did not say what the new evidence was or name the witness who had allegedly concealed it.
“There is new evidence that has surfaced which had been suppressed before,” Adv Nku submitted.
“One of the witnesses who testified in this trial had been told to withhold some parts of the evidence which have only come to light now.
“In the interests of justice, I pray that the judgement be deferred. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) did not know about this evidence and I only got to know about it last Friday. I am going to learn more about this evidence. I will make a substantive application regarding this new information latest by Thursday (today),” Adv Nku added.
Her submission provoked a furious reaction from Justice Mokhesi who blasted the prosecution for abusing its power to reopen cases.
He questioned why the prosecution had to wait until after he had written his judgement to bring new evidence.
“You cannot make me write a judgement and then come at the eleventh hour to claim that there is new evidence. What is this new evidence? If this evidence is from a person who has testified before, what makes it new? I know you have a right to reopen matters but this is unprofessional,” Justice Mokhesi said.
Defence lawyer, Adv Lebohang Ramakhula, also said he was puzzled by the prosecution’s insistence on submitting new evidence which he had not been alerted to before.
“I only learned that there is new evidence five minutes ago. The witness was not under any duress when he or she testified in this court so I do not understand why such evidence was withheld,” Adv Ramakhula argued.
Nevertheless, Justice Mokhesi postponed judgement to a date that is yet to be decided.
He gave Adv Nku the greenlight to submit the new evidence today.
It is the state case that Dlamini and ’Musi were on guard duty at the Maseru West home of then Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa when they shot Mr Nteso on 6 February 2017.
He was shot once in the hip area and the same bullet also penetrated the other leg.
The constables claimed they had suspected a plot to attack the former police commissioner after they noticed a firearm-holder in the late Mr Nteso’s car which was parked near Mr Letsoepa’s residence.
They fired shots at Mr Nteso’s vehicle at about 9pm that night to stop him as he was driving away from the residence of a senior LEC officer who lives near the former police commissioner.
Mr Nteso was later pronounced dead on arrival at Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital that night.
PC ‘Musi has argued that they shot at Mr Nteso in self-defence. He said that Mr Nteso fired at him first when he was telling him to step away from his (Mr Nteso’s) car. He said they did not intend to kill Mr Nteso but merely to stop him so that they could arrest him.
However, Mr Nteso’s younger brother, Tankiso Nteso, has alleged that his brother was killed because he was working on a forensic audit report on the LEC. A few days after the shooting, Tankiso told the Lesotho Times that his brother had confided in him that he had been handling a big case of embezzlement of funds from LEC coffers involving more than M170 million.