MASERU — A High Court judge on Friday dismissed an application for discharge by Thabiso Sephula one of the suspects in the brutal murder of former Astoria Bakery boss.
Another suspect, Mareka Nthejane, who was the human resources manager at the bakery, was acquitted on Thursday because there was no evidence linking him to the crime.
High Court judge Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, after hearing submissions from the crown and the lawyer representing Sephula, ruled that Sephula has a case to answer.
“I rule therefore that the application for discharge is dismissed,” the judge said.
Sephula is the fourth accused in the trial for the murder of former Astoria Bakery managing director Thabo Phohleli.
The former bakery managing director was abducted at his house on the afternoon of September 5, 2010 at Ha Tsolo in Maseru.
His body was later found dumped near the Phuthiatsana River with gunshot wounds on the head.
The other accused are Tello Mabusela, Seabata Ramohajane.
Sephula, through his lawyer Advocate Letuka Molati, made an application for discharge on the grounds that there had been no sufficient evidence presented in court to implicate him.
Molati argued the only crown witness who talked about Sephula was Limakatso Sealiete.
Sealite told the court there was a plan to kill Phohleli after he refused to give former staff members their severance pay.
Molati asked whether it was enough for the court to convict his client on the basis of this evidence.
In opposing the application for discharge, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Leaba Thetsane KC, submitted that it was incorrect to say that the only witness who had talked about Sephula was Limakatsao Sealite.
“The evidence of Limakatso should not be taken separately, but should be taken together,” he said.
Thetsane told the court the evidence from another crown witness, Puseletso Mabusela, is very significant in revealing whether Sephula had a case to answer.
He said Sealite testified that prior to Phohleli’s killing, Sephula had revealed to her that he was planning to kill Phohleli.
He suggested that they find someone to kill Phohleli because he had refused to release their severance pay.
According to Thetsane, Limakatso further testified that three weeks after the burial of Phohleli, Sephula informed her how Phohleli had been killed.
“It was on this occasion that Sephula informed Limakatso that he had secured his own person to do the job of killing Phohleli, but the former had failed to perform the task as a result of which Tello Mabusela, Accused One carried it out,” Thetsane said in his submissions.
Thetsane also alluded to the evidence of another crown witness Puseletso Mabusela. He said Puseletso testified that one Sunday, Sephula paid her a visit at her place and told her they had secured someone to kill Phohleli for M4 000.
Sephula disclosed to Puseletso that the hired assassin had already been paid the sum of M2 000 but had not carried out the assignment.
Thetsane argued that having admitted to Puseletso that he and others had already contributed money to the tune of M2 000 to hire an assassin to eliminate Phohleli renders Sephula complicit in his death.
“There is evidence upon which the honourable court might convict as opposed to whether it should convict, and consequently there is a very strong prima facie case against Accused Four (Sephula) calling for his explanation, bearing in mind his constitutional right to remain silent if he so wishes,” Thetsane submitted.
He called upon the court to dismiss an application for discharge.
The trial continues next week.
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