MASERU – The Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital has refuted claims that murder accused soldier, Major Pitso Ramoepana was forcefully removed from the hospital before completing his consultation last week.
This was after his lawyer, Advocate Kabelo Letuka alleged that Ramopena had not completed his consultation when Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) officers took him back to the Maseru Prison where he is currently detained.
Ramoepane was admitted at Ts`epong on Friday and released on Sunday after High Court judge, Justice Molefi Makara ordered LCS commissioner, Thabang Mothepu and the officer commanding Maseru Central Correctional Institution to ensure that Ramoepana was taken to Tse`pong to be attended by a doctor.
The hospital has, however, denied allegations that Ramoepana was forcefully removed from the hospital.
In an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday, Ts`epong Public Relations officer, Mothepane Thahane said the doctor had released Major Ramoepana before prison officials collected him.
She said Ramopeana’s family had not been aware of his release and assumed he was yanked from the hospital.
This was because the hospital communicated with the LCS officials who had brought him (Ramoepna) to the hospital, and not with the family.
“The patient you talk about was not forcefully removed from the hospital, what happened is that he was brought to the hospital by prison officials and released to them, the problem arose when relatives later discovered that he had been released without their knowledge.
“There is a refusal form signed by the patient and the family or whoever has brought them to the hospital when a patient refuses to take treatment or when taken away, there is no such form with us and therefore it cannot be true that he was removed,” she added.
Advocate Letuka told Acting High Court judge, Justice Kabelo Lebotse on Monday that Ramoepana was taken away by LCS officials before completing his consultation.
Ramoepana’s trial along with nine other soldiers accused with him of strangling and throwing three men into Mohale Dam in 2017, has failed to start due to his poor health condition.
The case was then postponed to February 24 to 28 for hearing as well as 23 until 27 March 2020.
Letuka said Ramoepane was still sick and unable to stand trial as planned and that although he was present in court, he is unable to speak and would like to go back to hospital.
He asked the court to order that he be taken back to the hospital saying efforts to ensure that Ramoepane is fit to stand trial were being frustrated by prison officials. He maintained that Ramoepana had not been officially discharged from the hospital.
“My client is before the court today without having been discharged by the doctor who attended him, he has not had medication after being removed from the hospital by officers subordinate to the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) commissioner,” Letuka told the court.
He claimed that the doctor was yet to give Ramoepana a prescription and that medication had not been dispensed when correctional officers took him away.
“My client has not had food because the doctor is yet to prescribe what kind of food he should have,” he added.
But a bemused Justice Lebotse asked why Ramoepana was not eating.
“It sounds bizarre to me that the doctor could have said the accused should not eat until he has told him what to eat, however I am going to order that Ramoepane be allowed to see a doctor so that he is fit to stand trial. No one can be deprived of that right,” Justice Lebotse said.
The judge further sated: “I don’t think there is any merit in arguing this matter, what should rather happen is that we allow Ramoepana to consult the doctor.”
On behalf of the crown, lead prosecutor, Advocate Shawn Abrahams argued that Ramoepana was not forcefully removed from hospital. He, instead, showed the court a medical booklet which he said had Ramoepana’s prescription.
He said the court should not be misdirected and said no fault can be laid against the LCS.
“The crown is strongly against the court being misdirected, at the same time we want Major Ramoepana to stand trial. We do not object to him being taken back to the hospital,” Abrahams said.
Abrahams asked the court to postpone the case to February 2020 for hearing and that state funded lawyers be appointed by the registrar of the High Court in the event that lawyers currently representing the accused withdrew their services.
The court said the accused would represent themselves if their lawyers renounced agency.