Former top cop to be arrested



MASERU – Acting High Court Judge Charles Hungwe was informed this Wednesday that former Police Commissioner Kitozo Mhlakaza declined to testify in the ongoing trial concerning the death of former army chief Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao. Prosecution counsel Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane informed the court that the prosecution was unable to secure Mhlakaza’s appearance in court on Wednesday to substantiate its case.

Mhlakaza’s no show is despite Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act’s specifying that “If any person subpoenaed to attend at any criminal proceedings or who during his attendance at any criminal proceedings was warned by the court to attend those criminal proceedings again, fails to attend the criminal proceedings, concerned at the hour and on the day specified in the subpoena or warning, or if he attended but failed to remain in attendance, and the court in which the proceedings are conducted, is satisfied from a statement under oath or from the return of the person who was required to serve the subpoena or from the record of the proceeding, that he is evading service of the subpoena, the court may issue a warranty that he be arrested.”

Setlojoane stated his intention to provide evidence that Mhlakaza had been subpoenaed as a witness but refused to testify. He indicated that the prosecution would submit a return of service to support their application for a warrant for Mhlakaza’s arrest.

“We had planned to summon Mr. Mhlakaza; however, regrettably, he declined. A return of service will be filed, and based on that, we will seek a warrant for his apprehension.” Originally slated as the 15th witness, Mhlakaza was substituted by recently retired Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli.

Molibeli testified that Kamoli was uncooperative with the police during their investigation into Mahao’s killing. He also informed the court that Kamoli had refused to release ammunition believed to have been used in the assassination, despite police requests. Mahao was fatally shot by his colleagues on June 25, 2015, in Mokema, outside Maseru.

The army claimed it was a failed arrest mission. However, the SADC commission of inquiry determined that Mahao’s death was premeditated and mandated the prosecution of those involved according to international standards. Nine soldiers, including retired army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, have been charged in connection with Mahao’s murder and are currently standing trial.

The other defendants are Captains Litekanyo Nyakane and Haleeo Makara, Sergeants Lekhooa Moepi and Motsamai Fako, Corporals Marasi ’Moleli and Motšoane Machai, and Privates Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Tšitso Ramoholi. All defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the prosecution is presenting its witnesses.

Despite this, the trial has faced numerous delays and controversies, resulting in it still being in its early stages nine years after the crime was committed. In addition to various procedural applications hindering the smooth progression of the trial, it has become evident that the events leading up to the murder of Mahao on June 25, 2015, are intricate and interconnected.

However, not all events recounted by a key witness, former Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, were deemed relevant to the case, as there is also a related but separate case pending in court. At one point during his testimony, the court sustained an objection, limiting Tšooana’s testimony to events directly related to Mahao’s killing and those occurring around the same time, as stipulated by the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

Defence attorneys objected to his discussion of attacks at his residence, and Liabiloe Ramoholi, then fiancée of former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane, informed the court that he had learned through intelligence reports about Kamoli’s alleged plans for the attacks. Advocate Kabelo Letuka argued that such information was irrelevant to the charges being investigated by the court, as it pertained to events between December 2013 and January 2014, while the crime being tried occurred in 2015.

“The timing is crucial, and according to the law, events occurring three months before or after the commission of the crime are irrelevant,” Letuka explained. He referenced Section 154(2) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which specifies that proof of an act or offense committed on a day or time more than three months before or after the period stated in the charge may only be admitted if it does not prejudice the defendant’s defence on the merits.

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