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Coup plotters plead guilty

“The
question of sentence will be left in the hands of court because now the case
will take a new turn,” said Hoeane.

Justice
Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, sitting with two assessors, accepted the plea and ordered
the defence to collate all their statements.
He
said the defence should indicate to the crown what statements furnished by the
crown they were admitting “so that those admissions would be read into the
court record”.

The
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Advocate Leaba Thetsane KC, who is
appearing for the crown, confirmed the pleas bargain.
He
said the state has no problem with “the changing of the plea at this stage”.
“However,
the crown deemed it advisable to bring it to the attention of the court as they
could not do it without the consent of the court,” Thetsane said. 
The
DPP said although the accused had pleaded guilty the crown still has to lead
evidence in court as stipulated by section 240 of the Criminal Procedure and
Evidence Act (CP&E). 
Advocate
Hoeane told the Sunday Express he was confident that the deal was in the
best interest of the suspects.

“Legally
our expectation is that in respect of all the counts, the accused will be given
lesser sentences than what they would have got had they not changed their
plea,” Hoeane said.
The
outstanding evidence relating to the charges of murder would be led in the
court and it would not be necessary to lead evidence in other counts, he said.
“We
will motivate court to give them for custodial sentences.”
There
was speculation last night that soon after being sentenced the eight men will
be pardoned and deported to their respective countries. 
A
highly placed source told the Sunday Express the matter is being
discussed at “the highest level in government”.
“They
will be pardoned and thereafter deported. A general amnesty will be declared to
enable even those who have fled the country to come back,” said the source who
refused to be named because of the confidential nature of the matter.
The
source however said there were worries in “high offices” that the pardon will
trigger a storm in political circles and create a bad precedence.
The
men were members of a group of suspected mercenaries who attacked the State
House and Makoanyane barracks on April 22, 2009.

The
group slithered into Lesotho in the wee of the morning and attacked Makoanyane
Barracks. They stole  guns, two vehicles
and kidnapped some soldiers.

From
there they proceeded to the State House where they were repelled by soldiers
before they could enter.
Four
of the men were killed in the gun battles that ensued with Lesotho’s security
forces at the State House and near the MKM Memorial. 
Two
of the suspects were arrested before they could leave the country while the
others jumped the border into South Africa.
The
South African police later arrested seven men who were then deported back to
Lesotho to face trial.

One
of the mercenaries died in custody last year while the other turned state
witness. 
Simon
Mnguni, one of the accomplices who is currently in the witness box, has
implicated businessman Jessie Ramakatane and the late retired army officer
Makotoko “Mashai” Lerotholi as the masterminds behind the failed coup plot.  

Mnguni
has told the court of how they were recruited, on promises of money and jobs,
from Soweto by Ramakatane.
He
gave details of how they were then taken to Ramakatane’s farm in Bethlehem,
South Africa before coming to Lesotho.
Mnguni
told the court they were given a map of the Makoanyane Barracks and camouflage
uniforms. 
The case will proceed
from August 28 – 31.

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