Top cop Mokete talks tough

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  •  vows to clean up CID amidst accusations of shoddy probes resulting in high profile acquittals
  • says “shocked” by Nthane acquittal and “special treatment” of Thabane, Mochoboroane.

Staff Reporters

RETURNING Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) responsible for the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Paseka Mokete, is a man on a mission.

He has vowed to clean up the CID which has lately been accused of shoddy work resulting in the acquittal of high-profile suspects like murder-accused businessman Tšeliso Nthane and Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs Minister, Lehlohonolo Moramotse’s son, Thabo Moramotse.

Of particular concern to DCP Mokete is the swift and “shocking” acquittal of business mogul Nthane. Mr Nthane was tried and discharged in less than 72 hours without even being put to his defence despite that it was his gun used in killing his driver.

This was a “straightforward case where the evidence connected him (Nthane) to the crime from the onset,” DCP Mokete says.

He said it was hard to fathom why the police and the prosecution had failed to hand over the ballistics report as part of the evidence against Mr Nthane when such a report had been prepared by the police. He vowed that one of his tasks on reassuming the CID reins would to be to get to the bottom of what actually happened with that ballistics report.

The top cop said he was also at pains to understand why murder-accused former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, and treason and murder-accused cabinet minister Selibe Mochoboroane had also been seemingly treated with ‘kid gloves’ by the judiciary in their respective cases.

This was in reference to the fact that both Messrs Thabane and Mochoboroane have not even been remanded in custody and asked to apply for bail as is the norm with such serious cases.

DCP Mokete spoke in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times this week ahead of his return today to head the CID. He is returning almost a year after he was shunted from that division to head the police’s finance and administration department.

Before he was reassigned on unclear reasons last year, DCP Mokete had made his name as the man who investigated and prepared the murder docket against Mr Thabane and his wife, ‘Maesaiah. The Thabanes are accused of the 14 June 2017 murder of the former premier’s ex-wife, Lipolelo Thabane.

DCP Mokete is returning today to take over from DCP Beleme Lebajoa who had replaced him last year. It is not yet clear which office DCP Lebajoa will assume.

Of late, the police and in particular, the CID, have come under widespread criticism for their seemingly shoddy approach to investigating cases involving high-profile suspects like Mr Nthane.

No less an authority than Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane has criticised the police for their botched investigations and half-baked dockets which have left the judges with no choice but to acquit suspects.

It was against this background that DCP Mokete vowed to immediately get down to work to “analyse the issues and challenges confronting the CID” with a view to addressing them.

He said Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli had redeployed him to the department to sort the mess out. He however, said the judiciary should also share the blame for the acquittal of high-profile suspects such as Mr Nthane as the evidence “clearly linked him” to the 10 January 2019 murder of his truck driver, Kopang Mohapi.

The businessman was acquitted on 8 April 2022 without even being put to his defence. This on the grounds that the prosecution had dismally failed to prove that he had a prima facie (on the face of it) case to answer.

His acquittal sent shockwaves around the country with some prominent people including former Justice Minister, Kelebone Maope, slamming the police and prosecution for the “shoddy job” which led to his discharge.

Advocate Maope KC said given the high levels of corruption among police and prosecutors, graft could not be ruled out as the reason behind the weak state case which led to Mr Nthane’s acquittal.

He said  the nation was now “in real danger from criminals” who were being allowed to walk free as a result of the incompetence or corruption of police officers and prosecutors.

Other legal experts said the acting judge had been hasty in acquitting Mr Nthane without even putting him to his defence. They said the businessman should have been ordered to take the stand because it was not in doubt that Mr Mohapi had been killed by a bullet discharged from Mr Nthane’s firearm. It was also not in doubt that the firearm had been discharged shortly after a heated argument between Mr Nthane and his now deceased driver. This suggested that the businessman had a motive for committing the alleged crime, the experts argued.

Weighing in on the issue this week, DCP Mokete said, “I was informed by the Commissioner of Police (Molibeli) that he had realised that there were some problems in the CID ever since I left”.

“There were some issues that people would raise and there were complaints that their cases were not handled properly by the CID. Specifically, the one that actually came to mind was the murder case of the businessman, Mr Nthane. He was found not guilty of murder despite clear evidence and we were all shocked.

“He (Molibeli) said it looks like there were some problems in the CID. Ever since I left the department, there were no fruitful results that could actually be seen. So he (Molibeli) had decided that I should go back to the CID.

The DCP, who is also a trained lawyer, said he was at pains to understand why Mr Nthane had been let off the hook that easily.

“In my humble view Mr Nthane’s case was a very a straight forward case. The now deceased driver was driving Mr Nthane’s truck with very expensive equipment which was supposed to earn him (Nthane) many millions. He (Nthane) went to the scene when he was told that the truck had overturned. There were onlookers when he arrived at the scene and fired the shot. After that shot was fired, the driver died and Mr Nthane surrendered himself to the police.

“In my understanding that (surrendering to the police) is basically an admission of guilt that the court should have taken into consideration. Somebody died from a bullet fired from the gun belonging to the suspect, Mr Nthane. Therefore I don’t understand why the court said there was no evidence,” DCP Mokete said.

He said he could not understand why the police had failed to submit a ballistics report in connection with the Nthane case when such a report had been prepared by the police.

“I heard that the court said that there was no ballistic report concerning the firearm that was used (in the commission of the alleged murder). But from what I have been told, there was a ballistic report. As to why it was not handed over to the court, I don’t understand but I intend to find out when I get back into the CID. I believe that the matter was not properly handled.

“The case of Mr Nthane was a very straightforward case because the incidents connected him to the crime from the onset. He fired the shot and the same person who was driving his truck got hit by the bullet and died. After the incident, the suspect surrendered himself to the police. What did he say when he arrived at the police station? What did the police say? According to my legal background, that is an admission and the police ought to have established whether he voluntarily surrendered himself or not. Were there any influences or threats to him to get him to surrender? All these issues ought to have been noted but I was shocked that they were not.

“The trust that the public have in the abilities of police officers to effectively investigate cases involving famous people is gradually being eroded if the police cannot handle issues of crime properly,” DCP Mokete said. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, has already filed a notice to appeal against Mr Nthane’s acquittal in the Court of Appeal.

DCP Mokete was himself recently acquitted on charges of sexually assaulting his subordinate, Inspector ‘Makatleho Mphetho.

He was acquitted three weeks ago by Maseru Senior Resident Magistrate Peter Murenzi on the grounds that the Crown had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

DCP Mokete said he had been a victim of ‘trumped up charges’ by people out to get him. He could not rule out a political hand in his troubles because there were people who had been unhappy with the fact that he had spearheaded investigations into the Thabanes’ alleged murder of Lipolelo, he said.

“People did not like the manner in which I handled the Thabane case. That one is an obvious fact and they tried by all the means to get rid of me. They then used that (sexual assault) case and the media to get rid of me. They did not know that by that time (of the redeployment from CID) the (Lipolelo) probe was complete. We had already completed the investigation and the case was not before the police anymore.

“They had thought that by removing me from that (CID) office and putting somebody else, something could be done to manipulate the system to ensure the (Lipolelo) murder investigation would come to naught. I think that was their motive.”

DCP Mokete said he was also at pains to understand why Messrs Thabane and Mochoboroane had seemingly been given special treatment by the judiciary when they were accused of serious crimes.

Both politicians have never been remanded in custody and asked to apply for bail as is the norm with the serious crimes they are accused of.

Asked if the duo was being given special treatment because of their high-profile status as politicians, DCP Mokete said, “That’s the inference that can be drawn by ordinary citizens”.

“Mr Thabane’s treatment is questionable even to me because he ought to have appeared before the judge or magistrate to be formally charged. But we don’t even know how to describe the current situation. He has gone to the court as what? Is he an accused person?

“An accused person is supposed to appear before a court of law and be formally charged. The charges have to be read to him. His rights must also be read to him and he has a right to remain silent. He has a right to a lawyer and a right to apply for bail. But all this was not done in Mr Thabane’s case as it was done with his wife. You can see that they were treated differently. The same applies with Mr Mochoboroane in the treason and murder case. This has set the wrong precedent in our judicial system and I think it has to be addressed,” DCP Mokete said.

The fact that Messrs Thabane and Mochoboroane were not arrested and remanded in custody pending their applications for bail did not go down well with the latter’s co-accused, former army commander Tlali Kamoli.

Kamoli believes he has been unfairly treated after being thrown in remand prison back in 2017.

In his appeal court papers last month, Kamoli argued that just like him, Messrs Thabane and Mochoboroane should have been arraigned before a magistrate’s court, remanded in custody before they could apply for bail in the High Court like any other murder-accused person.

He accused DPP Motinyane of giving the two politicians special treatment. Not only is this “kid-gloved treatment” a mockery of justice, it has also set a bad precedence in the criminal justice system, Kamoli argued.

Kamoli made the allegations in his Court of Appeal papers filed in opposition to  Director of Public Prosecutions, Hlalefang Motinyane’s, ultimately successful application for the overturning of Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane’s January 2022 judgment wherein he refused to recuse himself from presiding over Kamoli and Mr Mochoboroane’s  treason and murder trial.

 

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