MASERU — Habofanoe Ntsie, who fled the country in April, is now arguably the most wanted man in Lesotho after he was found guilty of two counts of murder on Thursday.
High Court’s Justice ’Maseforo Mahase found Ntsie guilty of the murder of Souru Masupha and Habaka Mahao in November 2004.
Soon after the verdict the judge issued a warrant of arrest for the controversial cameraman who disappeared from the court on March 26 before judgment could be delivered.
Justice Mahase said the warrant must be distributed to other countries to help catch Ntsie.
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha confirmed they had received Ntsie’s warrant of arrest from the High Court.
He said Lesotho’s police were now working with their counterparts in South Africa to track him down.
Although the police are not giving details there is speculation that Ntsie could be holed up in South Africa.
If Ntsie is arrested in South Africa, Lesotho will have to request his extradition but that process might take weeks or months depending on how Ntsie will object to the extradition.
Only when he is brought back to Lesotho can Justice Mahase sentence him.
Lesotho is one of the Southern African Development Community countries which still applies capital punishment on murder cases.
However, judges have been reluctant to send murder convicts to the gallows.
Capital punishment was last applied in 1994.
In her judgment, Justice Mahase dismissed Ntsie’s defence that he had killed Masupha and Mahao in self-defence.
Ntsie had told the court during the trial that Masupha and Mahao had stalked and tried to kill him.
He said he had reported them to the police and at one time the National Security Services had given him a gun to protect himself.
Ntsie told the court that on the fateful day in November 2004 he shot the two men because they were about to kill him.
But Justice Mahase, in her judgment, dismissed most of Ntsie’s evidence as either unbelievable or fabricated.
When Ntsie disappeared from the court during lunch break on March 26 his wife claimed that he had been rushed to hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Justice Mahase’s immediate reaction was to issue a warrant of arrest for him and order his wife to come to court on March 30 to explain her husband’s whereabouts.
A few days later Haae Phoofolo, his lawyer at that time, informed the court he had received a doctors’ letter indicating that Ntsie was indeed ill and needed two weeks to recover.
But when Ntsie’s wife failed to come to court as ordered, Justice Mahase issued a warrant of arrest for her too.
The case was then postponed to April 25 but when it resumed Ntsie was nowhere to be seen.
At that time Phoofolo said it was his responsibility and that of the police to make sure that Ntsie is arrested.
On Monday the crown moved a motion requesting Justice Mahase to finish reading her judgment.
Phoofolo & Co, the law firm representing Ntsie, has since been notified of the crown’s intention.
“The reason for this application is that the honourable court is entitled to deliver judgment even in the absence of the accused, up to the stage of delivery of verdict,” said crown counsel Advocate Abraam Lenono in a July 20 letter to the High Court and Phoofolo & Co.
On Friday Advocate Monaheng Rasekoai who is now handling Ntsie’s case said he will not object to the application to have the judgment read.
“We have no objection to the court to continue reading judgment in his absence because we do not know where he is.
“I feel that we do not suffer any prejudice when the judgment is read in his absence,” Rasekoai said.
However, Inspector Masupha said the police had done their part.
“After the warrant of arrest was issued, we had to go and confirm if indeed Ntsie was sick as per his doctor’s letter.
“We did that and reported to the court that indeed he was sick,” Masupha said then.
“In that way our part was done and we can only arrest him if another warrant is issued because the first one fell off after the explanation that we had given to the court.
“It is now his legal representative’s duty to find him unless we get anotherwarrant,” he said.
If Ntsie had been convicted he would have been immediately sent to prison becausemurder convicts don’t get bail pending appeal.
He would have then waited for the Court of Appeal session in August to hear hisappeal.
During the trial, Ntsie who claims to be an “international journalist”, had argued that he shot Mahao and Masupha in self-defence.
Ntsie is a controversial figure who has had a brush with the law in the past.
In April 2010 he faced trial for alleged reckless and negligent driving.
The court heard that Ntsie hit a car belonging to National Security Services agent,Sekake Mohale and fled the accident scene before the police arrived.
Ntsie has also claimed that he knows who killed former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s son, Maile, in 2002.
Maile’s murder has never been solved.