MASERU — Three former Precious Garments factory employees escaped the gallows after the Court of Appeal on Friday set aside the death sentences imposed on them by the High Court.
The High Court in 2006 sentenced Thabiso Mothobi, Bokang Molongoana and Kutoane Kori to death after it found them guilty of killing Precious Garments’ regional manager, Peter Mokheseng.
They were convicted of killing Mokheseng at Qoaling on the outskirts of Maseru.
The murder happened about 200 metres from Mokheseng’s home.
They appealed against both conviction and sentence.
In a less-anticipated verdict on Friday, the Court of Appeal set Mothobi entirely free.
“The appeal of accused two, Thabiso Mothobi, is upheld,” the judgment read. “His conviction and sentence are set aside.”
Although Molongoana and Kori avoid the gallows they are still not free from prison detention.
The Court of Appeal reduced their sentences to 20 years’ imprisonment.
“The appeal of accused three, Bokang Molongoana, against his conviction is dismissed,” the judgment read.
“His appeal against sentence is upheld.
“The sentence of death imposed by the court a quo is set aside and the following substituted in its stead: accused three is sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, which period is to commence on 31 August 2006.”
The judgment continued: “Accused four (Kori) is sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, which period is to commence on 31 August 2006.”
Molongoana and Kori remained silent as the verdict was read.
A light smile appeared on Mothobi’s face.
The Court of Appeal also acquitted Molai Mosoaboli who the High Court had convicted of the same crime but had sentenced to 20 years in prison.
His appeal also succeeded on both conviction and sentence.
“The appeal of accused five, Molai Mosoaboli, is upheld,” the judgment read.
“His conviction and sentence are set aside.”
The Court of Appeal also upheld Lesaoana Molomo’s appeal on both conviction and sentence in the same case.
He had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
But the Court of Appeal set aside both conviction and sentence. He is now a free man. The appeal court has also reduced a 10-year jail term imposed on Nokoli Hloloane to three years’ imprisonment.
Hloloane was the only woman accused in this case.
She was found guilty of associating herself with the killing by leading Mokheseng’s murderers to a traditional healer to conceal evidence.
However, she is now off the hook because the Court of Appeal ordered that her three-year jail term should start from August 2006.
This means that she has already completed her time in prison.
Court of Appeal president Michael Ramodibeli on Friday lashed out at the High Court for contributing to the delay in finalising the appeals.
He attributed the delay to what he said was lack of case management in the High Court.
“There is no case management in the High Court,” Justice Ramodibedi said.
“Recording tapes go missing and this makes it difficult to prepare the record of proceedings to be filed for appeal. This appeal was heard on a limited record.”
The High Court proceedings are recorded on tapes and later transcribed.
This appeal was postponed on numerous occasions since 2006 because some of the tapes could not be found in the High Court.
The appeal was heard on the record which was prepared by lawyers from the prosecution and the defence.
This is considered to be a limited record.