Soldiers’ case hits another snag

As Advocate Mohau ditches army Captain

 

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – Acting High Court judge, Justice Onkemetse Tshosa’s attempt to make progress on one of the ongoing high profile murder cases was halted on Tuesday this week when the Crown said witnesses in the case are unable to testify.

Advocate Mosoeunyane Masiphole told judge Tshosa that he has been informed that three of the witnesses who were supposed to testify were involved in an accident on their way to court and were receiving medical attention.

Masiphole said the information was communicated to him through a cellphone on the day the trial but was yet to verify the reports.

He said the caller did not identify himself when he communicated the news but undertook to get to the bottom of the matter. He asked the court to postpone the matter to April 12 to allow him gather more information and to be able to communicate with other witnesses should the need arise.

The witnesses were to testify in a case where five soldiers have charged in relation to a murder of three civilians in Mafeteng Ha Motanyane sometime in 2012.

The soldiers are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporals Khauhelo Makoae, Sebilo Sebilo and Privates Tšepo Tlakeli and Thabo Tšepe.

“I ask that the case be postponed to April 13 so I can ascertain the status of the witnesses,” Masiphole submitted. He said while they are not the only witnesses, he had prepared those witnesses for the day.

Justice Tshosa had vowed to proceed hearing the case despite a pending Constitutional application challenging his fitness and that of his colleague, Justice Hungwe to continue presiding over their criminal trials.

The defence is challenging the two judge’s fitness to hold office, asking the Constitutional Court to disqualify them from further participating in the trials.

In their applications, the soldiers have also asked the court to order permanent stay of their trials and that the agreement between the executive arm of government, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the European Union detailing how their cases are to be conducted be nullified.

The case is pending before the Constitutional Court and made several interim orders. No order was made to interdict the trials from proceedings and it is the basis by which judge Tshosa is proceeding to hear case. The Jurist ruled in a previous court appearance that there was nothing (no order) preventing him to continue with the trial.

However, the unavailability of witnesses prevented progress on the case on Tuesday, with the judge saying “there is nothing we can do.” He then postponed the case to April 12.

On the day, Advocate Karabo Maohau KC also announced his withdrawal from the case saying he will no longer be representing Captain Nyakane.

Adv Mohau said he has not had enough time to study contents of the case having been briefed a day before the trial date.

“When we accepted to represent the first accused, we intended to discharge that responsibility to the best of our ability. We are aware of the seriousness of the charges and seriousness of the charges and severity of the sentence if the accused are convicted,” he said

He further stated “Advocates are there to assist the courts so that justice is done. In the present circumstances, because I also love my job, that of assisting the court, I will not be of assistance to the court. Therefore, we have no option but to withdraw from the case.”

Advocate Mohau then handed the file to Nyakane before exiting the court. The development meant that all suspects are now without lawyers following the rest of the accused’s rejection of Advoacte Vuyani ‘Mone who was appointed by the state to represent them pro bono.

Controversy continues to stalk these high profile cases with little or no progress having been made.

Four years later, all the accused persons are yet to plead to the charges they are facing safe for former army boss, Maaparankoe Mahao murder suspects who pleaded not guilty.

 

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