FORMER army commander Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Tlali Kamoli and three other soldiers’ facing attempted murder charges will know on 11 December 2020 whether or not their trial proceeds.
The trial was initially supposed to begin on Thursday but it could not proceed due to a Constitutional Court application by Lt-Gen Kamoli and others to have their trials permanently stopped.
Lt-Gen Kamoli’s co-accused are Major Pitso Ramoepane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Sergeant Malefane Heqoa and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko.
They face attempted murder charges in connection with the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.
They have been in detention since their arrest in 2017 over the attempted murder charge and various other crimes including the June 2015 murder of army commander Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao and treason against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
They and other soldiers have filed various lawsuits in an attempt to stop the state from trying them on the grounds that they have been detained for too long without actually being tried in contravention of the Speedy Courts Trial Act.
One of the lawsuits they filed is a Constitutional Court application in October this year. In that application which is pending, Lt-Gen Kamoli argues that he is chronically ill and therefore should be discharged.
Another prayer is for Zimbabwean Judge Charles Hungwe and fellow foreign Judge Onkemetse Tshosa (from Botswana) to be declared unfit to preside over their trials on the grounds that they are biased against them.
Lt-Gen Kamoli and others keep filing such applications and repeating the same arguments despite that they have been thrown out in previous applications in the High Court and Court of Appeal.
It was the same story of their trial failing to take off when they appeared before Justice Hungwe on Thursday.
The lead prosecutor, South African Advocate Shaun Abrahams, told the court that the state was ready to proceed with the case.
He asked that the accused be ordered to plead and thereafter the state would call in its first witness. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane was also in court to follow proceedings.
But to hers and Adv Abrahams’ dismay, the defence lawyers asked the court to defer the matter until their clients’ constitutional case had been finalised.
Sergeant Heqoa’s lawyer, Adv Hopolang Nathane, said that it would be improper for the case to proceed when there was a pending constitutional matter to permanently stop the trial.
“My instructions are that the (constitutional) matter is of utmost importance as it may affect constitutional rights of the accused persons,” Adv Nathane said.
“I am told the constitutional matter will be heard on 11 December on urgent basis.
“Our humble submission is that it is only fair that this trial be held in abeyance until the completion of that constitutional application which will give us direction regarding this matter.”
Advocates Karabo Mohau, Napo Mafaesa and Lintle Tuke who represent Lt-Gen Kamoli and the other accused soldiers echoed similar sentiments.
Adv Abrahams then told the court that he had come all the way from South Africa expecting the case to proceed as he had not been made aware of any impediments. He expressed his frustration at the frequent postponements of this and other trials, saying it cost a lot of money for the Lesotho government to bring him over only for the trials to be deferred.
“My presence here costs the Lesotho government a lot of money and I would not be here if I knew we would not be proceeding. But I am in the hands of the court and stand guided by it,” Adv Abrahams submitted.
Justice Hungwe then postponed the matter to 11 December pending the finalisation of Lt-Gen Kamoli’s constitutional application.
“It is prudent to stay these proceedings until after the completion of the constitutional case. The matter is postponed to 11 December for an update,” Justice Hungwe ordered.