‘No grounds of appeal for Scott’

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Lehlohonolo Scott
Lehlohonolo Scott

…says South African prosecutor

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

Public Prosecutor Thuthukani Magubane, says he sees “no grounds” on which the Koalabata double murder suspect, Lehlohonolo Scott, could appeal a ruling made by the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday last week, which ordered his extradition to Lesotho.

However, Magistrate Mdunge gave Scott 15 days to appeal the decision, failing which he would be left “with no choice” but extradite him to Lesotho to stand trial for the murders he allegedly committed in 2012.

But until yesterday, Scott had not challenged the ruling, according to Advocate Magubane—a member of the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) who was assigned to prosecute the case in Verulam.

Advocate Magubane yesterday told the Lesotho Times in an exclusive interview that there was no basis for Scott’s appeal.

“He (Scott) has not filed anything to appeal the judgment. As a matter of fact, there are no grounds of appeal for him. He was given 15 days to challenge the ruling, and hasn’t done so eight days on. I know the grace period hasn’t lapsed; he still has seven more days to make the appeal, but I believe his lawyers have advised him there are no grounds of appeal for him really.”

Advocate Magubane further explained the NPA was already preparing extradition documents “which we are going to present before the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services (Michael Masutha) to take over and carry out the extradition processes on behalf of the South African government. In the process, the minister will communicate with the government of Lesotho about this issue,” Advocate Magubane said.

Efforts to get a comment from Scott’s lawyer, Advocate Nkanyiso Maphumulo, proved fruitless, while Lesotho Mounted Police Service spokesperson, Senior Inspector Clifford Molefe, told the Lesotho Times: “You should be aware that the court has given him 15 days to appeal the ruling. The police team which has always attended Scott’s case in South Africa has briefed the Commissioner about all the developments pertaining to the matter and all I can say to you is that we are ready to fetch him from Durban if he does not appeal within the 15 days that he was given.”

Once he arrives in Lesotho, Senior Inspector Molefe added, Scott would be taken to the Maseru Central Correctional Service, from where he dramatically escaped on 14 October 2012. The then 27-year-old had been arrested on 12 July 2012 alongside his mother ’Malehlohonolo, and escaped from the maximum security jail as he awaited trial for the alleged murder and mutilation of his fellow Koalabata residents, Moholobela Seetsa (13) and Kamohelo Mohata (22) in January and June 2012, respectively.

“We will have to take him to Maseru Central Correctional Service from where he escaped before fleeing to South Africa. That’s the only place we are allowed to put him while he awaits his trial,” said Senior Inspector Molefe.

The Minister of Police, Monyane Moleleki, while telling the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that he had not been briefed about the latest developments in the Scott saga, nonetheless noted the “serious nature” of the case.

“This is a very serious case and the government of Lesotho would like to know how Scott escaped from the tight security of the Maseru Central Correctional Service. At the moment, I have not been briefed about what will happen after that judgment was made last week in South Africa.”

Justice and Correctional Service ministry Principal Secretary, Teboho Mohlomi, also told the Lesotho Times all the department could do was wait to receive Scott from the police.

“We are just waiting for the police to finish the necessary processes; the police are the ones dealing with the matter at the moment. Once they are done, they will deliver Scott to us for custody while his trial continues.”

On his part, the Director of Public Prosecutions, King’s Counsel Leaba Thetsane, on Tuesday told the Lesotho Times he was yet to receive “a formal report from the police, so I cannot comment on the issue.”

Meanwhile, when passing the extradition ruling last week, Magistrate Mdunge said he had been convinced Scott was “the right person” wanted by the Lesotho government in connection with the killing of Seetsa and Mohata. The mutilation of the bodies led to speculation that the duo had been killed for ritual purposes.

The magistrate dismissed Scott’s submission, through his lawyer Advocate Maphumulo, that the matter had been “politicised” and would be killed once he was deported to face trial in Lesotho. Lesotho upholds the death penalty while South Africa does not.

Advocate Maphumulo, the Lesotho Times understands, was referring to a statement made by the Democratic Congress leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, prior to the 28 February 2015 snap elections, in which he accused the then Dr Thomas Thabane-led government of allegedly paying Scott’s legal fees through Lesotho’s Durban Consulate.

The statement by Dr Mosisili, who is now prime minister, was widely reported by the local media.

As evidence, Advocate Maphumulo presented copies of the story in question before the Verulam Magistrate’s Court, noting such statements could see Scott being sentenced to death if extradited to Lesotho.

However, Magistrate Mdunge ruled the submission was “irrelevant” as it had nothing to do with proving whether or not Scott was “the right person” wanted in Lesotho for the alleged charges.

The trial, which was before the Durban North Magistrate’s Court since April 2014, had to start all over again because it was being heard in the “wrong court”.

The then Public Prosecutor V Moodley, on 9 March 2015, said the case should be before the Verulam Magistrate’s Court, which is about 25 kilometres from Durban North, but still in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

Ms Moodley, who took over the case from the retired Blackie Swart, explained she had realised when Scott was arrested by the South African police on 6 April 2014 after almost two years on the run, he was in an area under the jurisdiction of Verulam and not the Durban North Magistrate’s Court.

She argued if the case continued and judgment was in favour of the prosecution, Scott could appeal on the grounds he had been convicted in the wrong court.

Following this notification, Magistrate Vanitha Armu struck the case off the Durban North Magistrate’s Court roll and transferred it to Verulam “for a fresh start”.

Meanwhile, in addition to murder, Scott would also be charged with escaping from lawful custody, should he be extradited as expected.

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