Tshosa recusal case postponed
BOTSWANA Judge Onkemetse Tshosa has postponed the application for his recusal from trying 10 murder-accused soldiers to 17 May 2021.
The application was supposed to be heard on Tuesday but it had to be postponed because the court records pertaining to the case had errors. The postponement is to enable the records to be accurately captured.
The recusal application was filed by Major Pitso Ramoepane, one of 10 soldiers accused of murdering three Maseru civilians in 2017.
His recusal application stems from the 25 March 2021 proceedings when Justice Tshosa entered a not guilty plea for Ramoepane and his co-accused’s behalf. This after they had repeatedly pleaded that Justice Tshosa lacked the jurisdiction to try them.
Major Ramoepane states in his application that Justice Tshosa’s refusal to accept his plea of lack of jurisdiction was one of the reasons why he had filed a fresh application for his recusal.
“I should state that the crown had not objected to my pleading lack of jurisdiction or to the plea of lack of jurisdiction.
“Surprisingly, it was the court that interjected and raised the provisions of section 160 (of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) saying the pleas as to jurisdiction should have been raised on notice. I verily aver that this is another indication of the court’s lack of impartiality in these proceedings by advancing the prosecution’s cause. The court descended from the bench and entered the fray. I contend therefore that his Lordship Tshosa has clearly demonstrated lack of impartiality.
“All this point to the fact that the court is not bringing an impartial mind to bear in hearing my case. Wherefore I pray that his Lordship Tshosa recuse himself from my case,” Major Ramoepane states.
He also argues that Justice Tshosa should recuse himself because he was allegedly convicted in his native Botswana for assaulting a police officer and was therefore unfit to be a judge.
“I am of the view that Justice Tshosa’s criminal record and his resignation to evade impeachment render him unfit to hold office as a judge and to preside over my criminal trial.
“If his Lordship Tshosa is to preside over my trial and convict me, a reasonable accused in my position and the public out there, might view my conviction as revenge or retaliation by his Lordship against me for putting it in the public domain that Justice Tshosa was convicted of a criminal offence and evaded impeachment,” Major Ramoepane said in his court papers.
Meanwhile, Justice Tshosa granted an application by four of Major Ramoepane’s co-accused to be furnished with the statements of the four police officers who investigated the murder allegations against them. He however, refused to grant their application to be furnished with statements of the magistrates who recorded the confessions of some of the co-accused. Justice Tshosa did not give reasons for his decisions.
The four who had applied for the police and magistrates’ statements are Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Privates Nthathakane Motanyane and Tieho Tikiso.
Apart from these and Major Ramoepane, the other accused soldiers are Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Motšoane Machai, Liphapang Sefako and Nemase Faso.
They allegedly strangled Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela and Khothatso Makibinyane at Setibing in rural Maseru on 16 May 2017 and dumped them in the Mohale Dam.
They allegedly kidnapped and murdered the three men after the trio had just been released from police custody where they were detained in connection with a shooting incident that occurred at the Maseru border gate on 13 May 2017.