Witness disowns Khetheng murder affidavit

Distances himself from accused’s falsified evidence

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – A state witness in Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng’s murder trial has disowned his affidavit supporting evidence cited by his seniors that Khetheng left Hlotse Police Station unaccompanied on the weekend he died. The fresh testimony is contrary to his sworn version before court that he last saw Khetheng leave the police station alone on the weekend he is said to have died as alleged in the affidavit. The witness now states he last saw Khetheng leave the station on a week day, and that he was made to swear to the affidavit without reading its contents.

Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Sub Inspector Ntoa Malefane says he was on July 3 shown an affidavit in which he endorsed Khetheng murder suspects Senior Superintendent (SSP) Thabo Tšukulu and Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo stance that Khetheng left the police station unaccompanied on the weekend of March 26. The affidavit, dated August 15, 2016, stated: “I have read the answering affidavits of SSP Tšukulu and Inspector Mofolo and I wish to confirm their contents in so far as they relate to me.” In their affidavit, SSP Tšukulu and Inspector Mofolo attested to Khetheng leaving the police station over the weekend and it was alleged that Malefane saw him.

However, Malefane disputes in the strongest term that he ever saw or read an affidavit of that sort. He maintains it was during the week not over the weekend when he last saw the late Khetheng. This, he states in a supplementary witness statement contained in the amended indictment served on the accused persons two weeks ago. “This is not true, I have never previously seen or read the answering affidavits of SSP Tšukulu and Inspector Mofolo nor were the content thereof read to me.” Malefane says he only got to see, read and understand that an affidavit he signed on August 15, 2016, was used to oppose the habeas corpus application by Khetheng’s family.

“On 3 July, 2020, the investigating officer showed me my affidavit filed in support of the Commissioner of Police and the officer commanding Hlotse Police station in the habeas corpus application. It was the first time that I read it. “I confirmed my signature thereon and that I had signed the affidavit on or about 15 August 2016 as reflected therein. I once again confirmed that I had signed it at Hlotse Police station and not at any Advocates chambers or attorney’s offices,” Malefane states. He further explained that on the day, July 3, 2020, he was for the first time shown SSP Tšukulu and Inspector Mofolo affidavits in the habeas corpus application and disagrees with the contents thereof.

“On 3 July, 2020, the investigating officer showed me the affidavits of both SSP Tšukulu and Inspector Mofolo. I dispute in the strongest terms that I had seen Police Constable Khetheng leave Hlotse police station unaccompanied on 26 March, 2016. I further dispute that I had at any stage informed SSP Tšukulu, Inspector Mofolo, Advocate Teele KC or anyone else for that matter that I had seen Police Officer Khetheng leave Hlotse police station on 26 March, 2016, unaccompanied. “I have at all times made it clear that I do not know anything about events that transpired over the weekend in relation to police officer Khetheng and that I can only comment on events that took place during the week and only in so far as it relates to me having seen Police Officer Khetheng,” he says. Malefane also states in his report that he was sometime in 2016 invited to Advocate Motiea Teele KC office where he was interviewed about issues surrounding PC Khetheng’s disappearance.

On the day, he says Advocate Teele only took notes but said nothing about an affidavit but was later approached “by either the DisPol, SSP Tšukulu or Inspector Mofolo who brought a prepared affidavit to me and asked me to sign it. I am not sure which one of the two it was but I was told that it was late and that he was in hurry as Advocate Teele KC was waiting for the signed affidavit.” According to Malefane, he was not given an opportunity to read contents of the affidavit prior to signing but signed it at Hlotse Police Station. He says at the time, there were also rumours that police officer Khetheng was dead.

Sub Inspector Malefane adds that he was requested to attend the High Court proceedings in the habeas corpus application as a witness but was never called to testify. However, he says he was called into the courtroom and during the testimonies he learned that the date of police officer Khetheng’s disappearance was an issue. This, he says, prompted him to inquire from Advocate Teele about what the evidence was really about. He told Teele that the evidence being led in court was about events of the weekend but he (Malefane) knows what transpired along the week to which Teele replied he should testify about what he knows. However, he says he did not get to testify.

The criminal trial has had to be postponed for one reason or the other. High Court Justice Charles Hungwe on Monday set August 3 as hearing dates after Advocate Bolelang Mokoatle informed the court that Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, who represents some of the accused persons in the trial, was sick and a doctor has declared that he is not fit for work. The judge had previously suggested that Advocate Mda’s office look to engage or brief another lawyer who may appear when Mda is sick but Mokoatle told the court that the accused persons have confidence in Mda’s service. She said it is the accused persons constitutional right to have legal representation of their choice.

In the case, SSP Tšukulu, Inspector Mofolo, Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona and Sub Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane are charged for murdering Khetheng in March 2016. Khetheng, who was stationed in Mokhotlong, disappeared on March 26, 2016 after he was earlier that day arrested by Leribe Police in connection with an arson incident that allegedly occurred at the Hlotse Police Station. It was alleged that instead of duly booking him, Hlotse police handed him over to their colleagues from Maseru who were in the company of members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

His disappearance then prompted his father Thabo Khetheng to lodge an application before the High Court on July 18, 2016 demanding that he be produced in court dead or alive. But police authorities defended the matter in court, contending Khetheng had absconded from duty and his whereabouts were unknown. Police also accused the family deliberately omitting crucial information in his court papers, contending that Khetheng’s father clearly had no “intimate” knowledge of his son’s movements and whereabouts.

One of the police officers who arrested Khetheng at his home in Sebothoane, Leribe later testified against her superiors when the matter continued in court. Makotoko told the court she arrested Khetheng along with Constables Mphutlane and Ntoane before handing him over to their superior officer, Inspector Mofolo who headed the Criminal Detective Division (CID). On August 11 2017, a body believed to be that of the missing Khetheng was exhumed at the Lepereng Cemetery in Maseru. As part of the investigations, three employees of the Lesotho Funeral Services were also detained and interrogated by police.

 

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