Home Crime & Courts Pay dispute stalls Mahao murder trial

Pay dispute stalls Mahao murder trial

by Lesotho Times


Moorosi Tsiane

THE much-postponed trial of former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and eight other soldiers accused of murdering army commander Maaparankoe Mahao has again been deferred, this time to 17 November 2022.

The latest postponement is to allow the pro deo lawyers representing all of the accused soldiers to settle their dispute with the government over the non-payment of their fees.

The trial is before Judge Charles Hungwe. Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Kamoli’s co-accused are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.

The nine are accused of murdering Lt-Gen Mahao on 25 June 2015 in Mokema, Maseru. They are also accused of the attempted murder of Lt-Gen Mahao’s nephews, Mahao Mahao and Mabilikoe Leuta, by shooting inside a vehicle in which they were passengers.

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

Lt-Gen Kamoli is also accused of the theft of Lt-Gen Mahao’s 9mm pistol and Samsung Galaxy mobile phone.

The trial was initially supposed to have proceeded last Thursday. But it was not to be after the defence lawyers informed Justice Hungwe that they could not continue representing their clients before the government had paid their outstanding fees.

It was agreed that all the lawyers would submit their details to the High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar, Mathato Sekoai, to map the way forward regarding their outstanding dues.

The matter was then postponed to yesterday.

Again, it failed to take off after one of the defence lawyers, Kabelo Letuka, informed the court that they still had not been paid. Nor had Adv Sekoai made any commitment to pay them, he said.

“As promised My Lord, we wrote to the Registrar (Sekoai) informing her of last week’s proceedings,” Adv Letuka said.

“We requested a report on the (payment) matter on or before today (yesterday) and unfortunately there is still no commitment from the office of the Registrar.

“We did all that was needed from our side but up to now there is no response,” he added.

Incidentally, the lead prosecutor in this and other high profile trials, Shaun Abrahams, has also withheld his services over the non-payment of his dues. (See story on Page 7).

Adv Motene Rafoneke, who stood in for Adv Abrahams, then told Justice Hungwe that the defence had never bothered to communicate with them on the non-payment issue.

“I was complaining to them (defence) that they have kept us in the dark in this matter. We are in this hole with them and we understand their position. On numerous occasions, we have tried to reach out to them but to no avail,” Adv Rafoneke said.

He however, said the Crown was ready to proceed with the case once the court had decided when the trial should resume.

“The Crown is ready to proceed once the court has decided on a way forward. We’ve been going around in circles for far too long and there hasn’t been any progress. We want to see this matter proceeding to finality,” Adv Rafoneke said.

In response, Adv Letuka said they could not continue with the matter until they had a commitment from Adv Sekoai indicating when they would be paid.

“I will not be able to participate in these proceedings any further unless the Registrar makes a commitment that my pro deo fees will be paid. I have run out of charity funds to come to court. It has to be clear that I’m not saying I’m withdrawing from the case. All I’m saying is that I won’t be able to come to court if we are not paid,” Adv Letuka said.

Other defence lawyers, Adv Napo Mafaesa and Adv Thandiwe Phohlo, concurred. Adv Mafaesa represents Sergeant Fako, Corporals Moleli, Machai and Seitlheko.

Adv Phohlo was standing in for Adv Letuka Molati who represents Kamoli while Adv Letuka represents Corporal Ramoholi, he was also standing in for Attorney Qhalehang Letsika and Adv Silas Ratau who represents Captains Nyakane, Makara and Sergeant Moepi.

“My Lord we adopt the same position. The Registrar needed some documents which we submitted. She said the judiciary was financially embarrassed but she would source some funding. However, she never returned to us. We are still waiting for her response because we submitted all that was needed from us,” Adv Mafaesa said.

Justice Hungwe then ordered the Crown to follow up on the lawyers’ grievances. He then postponed the matter to 17 November 2022. Even then, the trial will only proceed if there is positive feedback on the lawyers’ concerns, he said.


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