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Kamoli demands recusal of prosecutors


Mohalenyane Phakela

DEFENCE lawyers representing former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, and nine others accused of the June 2015 murder of army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, have demanded the recusal of prosecutors, Shaun Abrahams and ‘Naki Nku.

This after a state witness, Retired Colonel Thato Phaila, accused Adv Abrahams of working in cahoots with the slain Lt-Gen Mahao’s brother, Nqosa Mahao, to ensure that the verdict goes their way.

Retired Colonel Phaila even burst into tears while testifying on Thursday. He claimed that he wanted the truth to be told regarding the death of Lt-Gen Mahao and that he was ready to die for that truth.

Seizing on his claims, the lawyers then demanded the recusal of Advocates Abrahams and Nku. The presiding Judge, Charles Hungwe, was left with no choice but to adjourn proceedings to 16 July 2021.

On that date, Justice Hungwe will hear both sides’ arguments regarding the defence’s application for the recusal of Advocates Abrahams and Nku from the case.

Retired Colonel Phaila began testifying last Monday. Despite being roped in by the state as a witness, he has attempted to exonerate Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Kamoli and his co-accused.

He has been cross-examined by Adv Silas Ratau who represents Capt Litekanyo Nyakane and Capt Haleo Makara; Attorney Qhalehang Letsika representing Sgt Lekhooa Moepi; Adv Napo Mafaesa representing Sgt Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko; Adv Kabelo Letuka representing Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi and Adv Letuka Molati who represents Lt-Gen Kamoli.

Things took a dramatic twist on Thursday when he accused the prosecution and police investigators of amending his witness statement and forcing him to lie.

He also demanded not to be cross-examined by Adv Abrahams, alleging that the prosecutor had threatened to have him harmed if he did not cooperate with the prosecution.

“I want to talk about the prosecution which has been leading my evidence as if I was not their witness,” Retired Colonel Phaila said.

“He (Abrahams) was leading me to where he has an interest. I want to say this today. Even if I die when I walk out of this courtroom, I will die a happy man because I would have told the truth for my country’s sake, so help me God. My evidence has been fabricated and I will tell the truth which he and Adv Nku or the investigators cannot deny. I respected Abrahams and Nku a lot but they are not doing justice to this country.

“He (Abrahams) told me he was an important character in this country who had influence on the government, political leaders, heads of churches, the army, police and National Security Services. He was not alone at the time but with the short lady prosecutor, (Director of Public Prosecutions Adv Hlalefang) Motinyane, and Nku. He said if I cooperated, he would influence the government to release my unpaid gratuities.

“On 2 June 2021 he made a bizarre threat which corroborated his questions that I am being fed by the Kamolis. He said to me, ‘tomorrow (3 June 2021) the first witness will testify and this case will proceed and I am aware that parliament is in the process of enacting the Peace and Reconciliation Bill. ‘Since I have influence on the government and the deceased’s brother (Prof Mahao), we will ensure that the bill does not pass and that we proceed with this case’.

“He asked Nku to check if the deceased’s brother was still in Mokhotlong as he needed to talk to him that night to discuss the case to block the bill. I could not believe what he said and I asked for indulgence to go out and smoke.

“I therefore ask for the court’s indulgence not to answer Abrahams’ questions because I may get angry and my high blood pressure may shoot up. What assured me that they are working with the deceased’s brother (Prof Mahao) is that they had a meeting just outside here before he came into court to accuse me of being fed by the Kamolis.

“I have been risking my life coming here because I am being spied on by the mutineers. Maybe they are the ones supplying him with information. There is one Lance Corporal Bolofo, who is attached to the police and one Corporal Molapo who has been taking pictures of me daily. The court should not worry about whether I will be killed or arrested when I leave this court. I can protect myself,” Retired Colonel Phaila said.

When court proceedings resumed after a lunch break, Adv Abrahams said he had engaged Adv Motinyane to liaise with army commander, Lt-Gen Mojalefa Letsoela, to organise security for Retired Colonel Phaila.

However, the trial failed to proceed. This after Rtd Col Phaila broke down into tears before he could even be cross-examined by Adv Abrahams.

This led to another break which lasted for about 10 minutes. After that, the defence lawyers informed the court that their clients had demanded the recusal of Advocates Abrahams and Nku.

“Our instructions are to seek recusal of the prosecution in line with the allegations which have surfaced. These are very serious allegations and something we had not anticipated,” Mr Letsika said.

Justice Hungwe then ordered that the defence lawyers to file a formal recusal application by 12 July 2021 (tomorrow) and the prosecution to file its answering papers on 14 July 2021.

The judge will hear then hear both sides’ arguments on 16 July 2021.

Lt-Gen Kamoli is accused of various crimes including murder and treason. He and his co-accused have previously filed several unsuccessful applications to stop the prosecutions.

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