THREE male soldiers accused of assaulting their female colleague in 2012 have applied to be discharged on the grounds that their case has taken far too long to be heard in contravention of their constitutional right to a speedy trial.
They will only find out on Christmas Eve whether or not there will a constitutional hearing to determine if their constitutional right to a speedy trial has been infringed.
This follows their Monday appearance before Maseru magistrate Phethise Motanyane who ordered them to return to court on 24 December 2018 when a determination will be made as to whether or not their case will be moved to the Constitutional Court and be heard as a constitutional matter.
The three soldiers are Lekhooa Moepi, Simon Zwakala and Liphapang Sefako. They stand accused of assaulting Ntṧiuoa Molapo between 13 and 16 December 2012 with the intention of causing her grievous bodily harm.
The charge sheet states that the “accused are charged with the crime of aggravated assault in contravention of Section 109 of the Penal Code Act No. 6/2010”.
“Upon or about dates between 13 and 16 December 2012, at or near Ratjomose Barracks, the said accused did…intentionally assault Private Ntṧiuoa Molapo by kicking her with shoes on the vagina and also hitting her with a blunt object all over the body with the intention of causing her serious bodily injury or any form of lasting physical disablement.”
The three officers first appeared in the Magistrates’ Court on 12 June 2018 and their case has been remanded on several occasions. During their 1 October court appearance, their lawyer, Advocate Qhalehang Letsika, asked that that the case be heard as a constitutional matter. Adv Letsika argued that his clients’ right to a speedy and fair trial had been infringed as the case kept being postponed even though the alleged crime happened a long time ago.
“We have instructions that the accused persons be offered sufficient time to refer the matter to Constitutional Court in terms of Section 108 of the constitution.
“The reason being they have not been afforded hearing within reasonable time. The question is are they being offered fair trial? The question would also be why raise the matter now,” Adv Letsika said in the magistrates’ court on 1 October this year.
The application to have the case moved to the Constitutional Court was subsequently filed on 29 October 2018.
And on Monday the District Public Prosecutor, Qcinumuzi Tshabalala, asked the court to remand the case to 24 December because there was still no decision as to whether or not the case would be heard in the Constitutional Court as demanded by the defence lawyers.
“The lawyers of the accused earlier filed before the High Court to have the matter be treated as a constitutional case in that in happened a long time ago in 2012. They further argued that it be treated as a constitutional issue because the accused were not prosecuted on time. It is not yet clear to me whether or not there has been an order to move the case to the Constitutional Court hence I ask for it to be postponed,” Mr Tshabalala said.
Magistrate Motanyane then remanded the case to 24 December 2018.
“You will come back on 24 December to find out what is going to happen to your case,” Magistrate Motanyane told the accused.