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New prosecutor for Mahao murder trial

by Lesotho Times
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Moorosi Tsiane

PROMINENT lawyer, Rethabile Setlojoane, has been appointed lead prosecutor in the trial of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Tlali Kamoli and eight other soldiers charged with the June 2015 murder of former army boss, Maaparankoe Mahao.

Advocate Setlojoane will be assisted by state lawyer, Lehlohonolo Phooko.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, informed the High Court of the new developments on Monday, further asking the court to defer the matter because of the appointment.

Advocates Setlojoane and Phooko take over from South African lawyer, Shaun Abrahams, and his Lesotho counterpart, Motene Rafoneke, who withdrew from the case early this month due to non-payment of their fees, among other reasons.

However, following the DPP’s announcement of his appointment, Adv Setlojoane asked the court to postpone the trial to the next available dates so he could familiarise himself with the records of evidence which has so far been led in the trial. Adv Setlojoane said he had already asked High Court assistant registrar, Edward Maiketso, to furnish him with the recording of the trial.

“My Lord, I must indicate that I was duly briefed on 11 August 2023 to proceed with the matter, and I had occasion to peruse Adv Rafoneke’s minutes. I must say I am not in a position to continue with the matter right now. We have liaised with Adv Maiketso to furnish me with the record of proceedings so I can familiarise myself with the evidence that has been presented to court and he said he will check with the IT department. This is a high-profile case and I wouldn’t be doing justice to it if I only get into it based on the minutes of Adv Rafoneke, which are hand-written and also not easy to read. I humbly request that we postpone to the next available dates, while I will also be checking with Mr Maiketso about the recordings,” submitted Adv Setlojoane.

Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, speaking on behalf of the defence lawyers in the trial, said they were aware of the new developments .

“It is only fair that when counsel joins the case, we are all on the same page for the trial to cruise smoothly. The matter can be postponed to the available dates. We have reached a compromise that the Khetheng murder trial continues from 5-15 September, while this trial will run from 18-29 September,” said Attorney Letsika.

Judge Charles Hungwe duly postponed the matter to 18-29 September as suggested by both parties.

Former LDF commander, Lieutenant-General Kamoli is charged in this case alongside Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporals Marasi ‘Moleli, Motšoane Machai, Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Tšitso Ramoholi.

Lt-Gen Kamoli is represented by Adv Letuka Molati; Adv Silas Ratau represents Captains Nyakane and Makara; Adv Napo Mafaesa represents Sgt Fako and Corporals ‘Moleli, Machai and Seitlheko; Attorney Qhalehang Letsika represents Sgt Moepi, while Adv Kabelo Letuka represents Corporal Ramoholi.

By the time Adv Abrahams and Rafoneke withdrew from the case, 13 witnesses had already given evidence towards the events that unfolded on 25 June 2015 at Ha Lekete, Mokema, where Lt-Gen Mahao was allegedly murdered.

The nine are also accused of the attempted murder of Lt-Gen Mahao’s nephews, Mahao Mahao and Mabilikoe Leuta, by shooting into a vehicle in which they were passengers.

They are also accused of damaging Lt-Gen Mahao’s vehicle, a white Nissan half-truck, by firing at it.

Meanwhile, Advocates Setlojoane and Phooko are also prosecuting the 2016 attempted murder of Lesotho Times and Sunday Express editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, which will proceed in the Maseru Magistrates’ Court on 20 October 2023.

Four soldiers are on trial for Mr Mutungamiri’s shooting following their arrest in November 2017.  END

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