FORMER army commander Tlali Kamoli and former Defence and National Security Minister, Tšeliso Mokhosi, are set to testify against four police officers accused of murdering their colleague, Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng in March 2016.
According to a witness list seen by the Sunday Express this weekend, Messrs Mokhosi, Kamoli and former National Security Services (NSS) director general, Mohlakala Lerotholi, are among 53 witnesses who have been lined by the prosecution to testify in the murder case.
PC Khetheng was last seen alive while being arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016.
PC Khetheng had been arrested and charged on allegations that he torched the house of his superior in Mokhotlong district where he was deployed.
The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) had at the time argued that PC Khetheng had left the Hlotse police station without permission and they did not know where he was. For its part, the Khetheng family argued that the police should know where he was because they arrested him.
PC Khetheng was exhumed at Lepereng Cemetery in the Maseru district on 11 August 2017 after the police were granted a court order by the Magistrate’s Court in light of the ongoing investigations into his disappearance and suspected murder.
SSP Tšukulu, the Hlotse Police Station Commander was subsequently arrested and charged along with the other three police officers with PC Khetheng’s murder.
His three co-accused are Superintendent Mathibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and PC Haleokoe Taasoane.
Mr Mokhosi was initially accused alongside the four officers but he the charges were dropped on 6 July 2020 and he was turned into a state witness.
Meanwhile, the trial got underway on Thursday with Snr Supt Tsukulu pleading not guilty to murder. He was represented by Advocate Karabo Mohau who withdrew his legal services on Friday, citing non-payment by the state who had appointed him to represent Snr Supt Tsukulu in terms of the pro deo arrangement granted to suspects who cannot afford to pay for themselves.
His co-accused attempted to stall proceedings by refusing to plead. They said they could not plead in the absence of their lawyer, Adv Zwelakhe Mda who subsequently tendered a sick leave note on Friday indicating that he had been found unfit to work by his doctor for 10 days starting from 22 April 2021.
However, the presiding Judge, Charles Hungwe, refused to postpone the case and entered a “not guilty” plea on the trio’s behalf.
Justice Hungwe said Adv Mda should have arranged for another lawyer to stand in for him.
This after the lead prosecutor, South African Adv Shaun Abrahams, had opposed the postponement on account of Adv Mda’s ill-health.
However, when the prosecution prepared to call in its first witness on Friday, Adv Mohau withdrew from the case, citing the state’s failure to pay him for his services.
“We were appointed on a pro deo basis and we have submitted claims (for payment) which have not been met,” Adv Mohau said.
“We feel the state is deliberately not paying us. We are therefore withdrawing representation for the first accused (Snr Supt Tsukulu).”
Justice Hungwe was then forced to postpone the matter to Tuesday to allow the High Court registrar, Adv ‘Mathato Sekoai, to appoint a new layer to replace Adv Mohau.
“It is not appropriate to have long postponements when the accused have already pleaded. The matter is postponed to 27 April 2021 to allow the registrar to get a pro deo lawyer for first accused,” Justice Hungwe ordered.