Witness negates radio reports on evidence in Mahao case
MASERU – The local media came under heavy criticism this week for alleged flawed reporting of the murder case of slain army boss Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) Maaparankoe Mahao.
High Court judge, Justice Charles Hungwe, was on Thursday asked to order the media to accurately report on court proceedings. The judge was also asked to prevent news reporters from taking pictures of witnesses in court.
On Thursday this week when proceedings started Justice Hungwe undertook to make the order later in the afternoon, but failed to do so when the session resumed. The request came at the back of the Crown witness Lance Corporal Mokete Halahala’s complaint that he had been misrepresented by the media following his testimony the previous day.
This, he said, is mostly done by local radio stations which he did not name. “My fear is the kind of reporting done by the media. I don’t recall speaking about Brigadier Mokaloba but it’s said elsewhere in the media that I made mention of Brigadier Mokaloba in my evidence,” the witness said.
He added “with your permission My Lord, I am calling on the media to report what I have said in the court.” Halahala’s sentiments were shared by Lead Prosecutor, Advocate Shaun Abrahams, who said it is important that the media reports accurately about the proceedings.
Accurate reporting, he asserted, becomes more important in criminal matters as there is a risk of painting things the way they are not.
“The choice of words should also be accurate. That is why we are seeking an order that the media should report accurately about these proceedings,” Abrahams added.
The defence was in agreement with the prosecution on the matter, and said the court should intervene in protecting its proceedings. “Not only with this particular witness but with the accused persons who have been victims of such reporting,” defense lawyer, Advocate Napo Mafaesa, said.
Mafaesa told the court that in some of the instances, not only are merits of the case discussed but commentators go ahead to say witnesses are lying, insisting that the court should take steps in protecting its proceedings.
For his part Advocate Kabelo Letuka said it is the responsibility of the court, defense and prosecution to protect proceedings. He called on the media to stop antagonising its clients, adding that “all we seek is responsible reporting.”
When the case resumed, Advocate Letuka Molati cross examined Lance Corporal Halahala and questioned him about Mahao’s killing, putting it to the witness that Major General Lineo Poopa will testify when his turn comes that an operation to arrest Mahao was a lawful exercise.
Molati also told the court that his client, retired army commander Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, will tell the court that there are high ranking officers who ran away to neighboring South Africa when they learned that the Lesotho Defence Force was on an operation to arrest suspected mutiny suspects.
These, he said, included the current small business minister, Chief Thesele ’Maseribane to which Halahala indicated he will not comment because ’Maseribane is his chief.
Halahala was also asked if he knew about the 23 officers who were arrested for mutiny but were never charged before a civil court.
The officers are said to have been charged before a Court Martial but their case never got to the oral evidence stage.
One of the 23 officers, Molati said, was Colonel Phoka Nkeli who was rewarded with an embassy job such that “somebody had to be removed when they were about to board a plane for Nkeli to be the one leaving.”
Halahala told the court on Wednesday that he and one of the accused, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli received a tip off that there would be a mutiny. In the case Lt Gen Kamoli, along with other soldiers have been charged with the murder of Mahao.
The other soldiers 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.