AS I SEE IT
TWO weeks ago the Lesotho Times carried a story about a judgment by the High Court in a case in which a local chief, Masupha Phosholi, was acquitted of murder.
The murder charge had been hanging over Phosholi’s head for the past 13 years.
In a surprising twist to the case last week High Court Judge ’Maseshophe Hlajoane acquitted Phosholi of murder.
I found the judgment not only shocking but unfair.
For the record, I am no legal guru. I claim no experience in how the legal profession works.
My views are purely those of a layman.
As reported in the story Senior Inspector Mathaha Mathaha told the court that Phosholi had confessed that he had taken part in the killing of a four-year old girl for ritual purposes.
According to Mathaha, Phosholi retrieved a portion of human flesh from a bale of wheat.
The court was told that the chief later handed over a knife to the police that was used in the murder.
The prosecution told the court that the chief, 10 other men and a woman, who were jointly charged with the murder, killed the girl to make muti.
The muti, according to the prosecution, would help the 10 men to secure an acquittal in court on a charge of cattle rustling that they were facing.
The court was told that Posholi wanted to use the muti to improve his harvest.
The chief clearly confessed to the police that he indeed killed the girl.
In my opinion the chief should have been convicted of murder following his confession.
’Makolisang Khutlang, according to prosecution witnesses, wanted to use the girl’s body parts to resolve her family dispute.
There was enough evidence, in my opinion, to secure a conviction.
But surprisingly Justice Hlajoane acquitted Phosholi and his co-accused on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt.
Justice Hlajoane indicated that the evidence presented in court was only based on conjecture.
The learned judge said no witness had testified in court alleging that the accused had indeed committed the horrific act.
She even said the circumstances did not point at Phosholi and his co-accused.
I find this strange since a statement of confession from Mathaha could have been taken as evidence.
The verdict left a sour taste in my mouth.
It is an irritating and disappointing judgment which left a lot to be desired.
It would appear that our courts of law have very little confidence in our police.
I thought the courts of law work hand in hand with the police.
If we allow judgments of this nature to pass without criticism we will do ourselves a great injustice. This is why I am critical of the judgment.
People want to see judgments that instil confidence in the judiciary system.
They need to see that the judiciary is not encouraging lawlessness. We must see that justice is being done through court judgments.
The people must have confidence in the judiciary.
Criminals must be made to see that crime does not pay.
We therefore need judgments that make criminals realise that they will pay heavily for their crimes.
My experience is that criminals take advantage of a weak judiciary system.
I would want to see a situation where criminals are locked up in prison for a long time.
In that way we can rid our communities of all the undesirable elements.
It might also be easy to conclude that the chief literally “got away with murder” simply because of his position in society.
But one’s position in society should not be used to escape justice.
If one has erred he must be allowed to face the consequences.
Our judges should ignore a person’s standing in society and deal with cases on their merits.
Judges must deliver justice without looking at the colour of a person’s skin, financial position, profession or prominence in society.
We want to see justice in our country.