Judge Hungwe’s contract runs its course

MASERU – The contract of Justice Charles Hungwe, who presided over the case in which nine soldiers are accused of the murder of the former army chief, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, has expired.

It is not yet clear if the government of Lesotho will renew the Zimbabwean judge’s contract which expired on October 31. Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane explained on Monday that the judiciary is in an uncharted territory in respect of the matter as the Crown is not in a position to honour its financial obligations.

He said although Justice Hungwe is available and willing to continue with the trial, the current situation is beyond his control.
“As the Chief Justice, I have tried to assist in solving the matter, but my efforts have been unsuccessful,” Justice Sakoane said, adding that parliament holds the purse and not the judiciary.

He said he deliberately announced the development in open court in order to avoid any misrepresentations. “Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but whatever one says should be based on facts,” he said adding that the accused soldiers are facing capital offences. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane asked the court to give her time to consult the Attorney General on the matter.

The accused in the matter include Motsamai Fako, Motšoane Machae, Tšitso Ramoholi, former LDF commander, Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, Litekanyo Nyakane, Haleo Makara, Lekhooa Moepi, Marasi ’Moleli and Mohlalefi Seitlheko.

They face multiple charges including attempted murder, theft, obstruction of justice, damage to property, aggravated assault and risk of injury or death.
Most of these crimes allegedly occurred in Ha Lekete and Ha Ratjomose in Maseru on June 25, 2015, the day on which Mahao was killed.

Justice Hungwe came to Lesotho along with two other judges from Botswana as part of recommendations by SADC to bring peace and stability to troubled Lesotho. The idea was foreign judges are more likely to serve justice better by being more impartial than local judges in these complex high profile cases.

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