Long jail term for Chief over cousin’s murder



MASERU – The Principal Chief of Tebang and Tšakholo in Mafeteng, Chief Khoabane Mojela, was sentenced to 27 years in prison this Wednesday after High Court Judge ’Mabatoeneng Hlaele found him guilty of the murder of his cousin, Tšenolo Letsie. Additionally, Chief Mojela has been ordered to compensate the deceased’s family with either four cattle or the equivalent sum of money.

Judge Hlaele delivered the sentence yesterday morning in a crowded courtroom, with attendance from the general public and several principal chiefs. The guilty verdict was reached last month, with the sentencing scheduled for (Wednesday). In delivering the sentence, Judge Hlaele emphasised the significance of upholding the administration of justice, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary, especially in cases involving individuals of such prominence as a principal chief.

Acknowledging the accused’s remorse expressed during the trial, the judge also noted that, as a custodian of the law, the court could not overlook Chief Mojela’s position, yet it took into consideration his contrition. “The accused is not merely an ordinary Mosotho man; he holds the esteemed position of a principal chief. A chief embodies the roles of a lawgiver, a mediator, and the custodian of our Basotho culture. It is worth noting that the accused inherited his chiefdom by birth, implying that he should have been instructed on the responsibilities entailed by his office,” said the judge. Throughout the trial proceedings, Justice Hlaele remarked: “I discerned the widow’s profound anguish as she recounted the accused’s role as her husband’s assailant.”

On the contrary, the prosecution contended that Mojela harboured a longstanding animosity towards Letsie, whom he frequently accused of practicing witchcraft. The trial commenced early last year under the jurisdiction of Justice Hlaele, with Advocate Lehlanako Mofilikoane prosecuting the case, while Advocate Makhera represented the chief. On May 18, 2020, Chief Mojela encountered Letsie at a village shop and engaged in conversation with the shop owner. Despite exchanging pleasantries with the owner, Chief Mojela berated Letsie, accusing him of witchcraft. He also claimed that Letsie had given him a hostile look while he greeted the shop owner.

In a fit of rage, Mojela confronted Letsie, who attempted to leave for his car. However, before Letsie could reach safety, Mojela drew his pistol and fatally shot him in the back. Following the incident, Mojela surrendered himself to the authorities, while Letsie received immediate medical attention at the local clinic, which subsequently transferred him to Mafeteng Hospital and later to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH).

Despite being discharged from QMMH after a brief stay, Letsie’s condition worsened, prompting another transfer to Ntšekhe Hospital in Mohale’s Hoek.Tragically, Letsie succumbed to his injuries on June 2, 2020.

According to the post-mortem report, Letsie’s demise resulted from traumatic perforation of the heart and internal bleeding inflicted by the gunshot. In his defence, Mojela asserted that Letsie’s demeanour on the fatal day appeared menacing due to their strained relationship. He claimed that upon seeing Letsie move towards his vehicle, he shot him, suspecting that Letsie was reaching for a firearm. Additionally, Mojela cited mental distress, attributing his actions to a failure to adhere to his epilepsy medication regimen.

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