. . . as treason and murder trial beckons
BARRING a last-minute SADC intervention, politicians Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane will tomorrow make their much-anticipated appearance in the High Court to be tried for treason and murder alongside former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and others.
The trial is a first for Lesotho and the entire SADC as no serving cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister have ever been tried for treason and murder in living memory.
It is also a first in the sense that Lesotho’s judiciary is asserting its independence from SADC by refusing to heed the latter’s call to stop the trials at least until after the full implementation of multi-sector reforms that were recommended by the regional bloc as part of efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Kingdom.
Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane will be in the dock alongside Lieutenant General Kamoli, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, and Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa to face charges relating to an attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 30 August 2014.
Mr Metsing, who leads the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), was deputy prime minister at the time of the attempted coup while Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader and current Development Planning Minister Mochoboroane was Communications Minister and LCD secretary general.
Lt-Gen Kamoli had been fired by Mr Thabane from his post as army commander on 29 August 2014 before orchestrating the attempted coup allegedly with the support of Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane, Captain Nyakane and Lance Corporals Ntsane and Motsieloa. Messrs Thabane and Metsing had fallen out with the latter alleging he was not being consulted on key decisions.
The murder charge emanates from the killing of police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko, which occurred during the night of the attempted coup when soldiers under the command of Kamoli raided police stations to disarm police officials who were loyal to Mr Thabane.
The trial is set to go ahead despite Mr Metsing’s best efforts. He even met the head of the SADC facilitation team, retired former South African Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, in Pretoria on Tuesday in a desperate bid to get the regional bloc to stop the trial.
Two weeks ago, Mr Metsing had even written to Justice Moseneke, warning that failure to stop their trial would leave them with no option but to withdraw from the ongoing multi-sector reform processes.
The letter was written in the aftermath of Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane’s 18 November 2021 judgement which threw out the duo’s application to stop the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, from joining them to the treason and murder case of Lt-Gen Kamoli and others.
Justice Sakoane said their application lacked merit and they would have to stand trial with their co-accused on 6 December 2021.
The trial is set to go ahead tomorrow with Mr Metsing conceding that he had not gotten any joy in his attempts to get Justice Moseneke to save them.
Yesterday, he told the Sunday Express that he was in a dilemma as to whether he should appear in court as he had still not received a response from Justice Moseneke after their meeting last week.
“I am still expecting to hear from SADC after our meeting with the facilitator Justice Moseneke,” Mr Metsing said.
“It is only then that I shall be certain of the way forward. As it is, I am not ready to stand trial as directed by the courts of law. This situation is very frustrating for me, especially because I can see that these people are baying for my head. I can’t pretend that I don’t see what is happening but I am just holding on to faith and hoping against hope.
“As a law-abiding citizen, I would like to do everything according to the book but then again I am scared because our government is very unpredictable. I am still going to speak to the envoy on Sunday if I would not have heard from him by then. Only then, will know my next step going forward,” Mr Metsing said.
LCD spokesperson, Apesi Ratšele, said they were unhappy with the decision to have their leader tried for treason when there were other politicians who had not been called to order for what he said were treasonous utterances.
“We are frustrated as a party and we don’t know how best to advise our leader. We are law abiding citizens and we would like him to appear in court for his trial. But then again, we don’t know what he will decide because he is scared. He will have to listen to his conscience,” said Mr Ratšele.
Meanwhile, the MEC says its leader is ready to stand trial.
MEC Secretary General Napo Moshoeshoe said, “even if we wanted to advise otherwise, our leader has made it clear that he will stand trial and we will be there to give him our unwavering support”.