CONVICTED killer photographer, Habofanoe Ntsie, will be sentenced on 13 September 2022.
Ntsie was on 9 August 2012 found guilty of the 2004 murders of Habaka Mahao and Souru Masupha at Lancers’ Gap, Maseru.
He was convicted in absentia by Judge ’Maseforo Mahase. This after he escaped from the High Court and fled to South Africa.
He was arrested in Vereeniging in 2013 but only extradited to Lesotho in March this year.
It had been expected that Justice Mahase would finally sentence him on Thursday but this was not to be as he informed the judge that he now wanted his lawyer, Haae Phoofolo, to recuse himself from his case.
When proceedings got underway, Advocate Phoofolo, a prominent lawyer and former attorney general, told Justice Mahase that his client wanted to address the court.
Justice Mahase declined the request, saying it was unprocedural. She however, conceded that Ntsie had a right to seek the recusal of his lawyer but this should be done in writing.
She then postponed sentencing to 13 September 2022 to allow Ntsie to find a new lawyer. She however, warned him against continually coming up with excuses to delay his sentencing.
“He (Ntsie) must be warned that there will be limitations,” Justice Mahase said.
“He cannot go on and on delaying the matter because he wants some other counsel. That right is not absolute, particularly in this case where it has been 10 years since the accused absconded.
“I must indicate (that) I’m no longer taking any cases because my diary is full until 15 December, which is the last day this court will be sitting before the (Christmas) vacation starts. I am giving you three weeks to have briefed another lawyer. I am going to hear this matter on the 13th of September to read the judgement. Make sure that you get counsel by that time,” the judge added.
Ntsie was before Justice Mahase on 26 March 2012 facing murder charges.
During the reading of the judgement, his wife claimed that her husband had fallen ill during the lunch break hence he could not return to court. Justice Mahase immediately issued a warrant of his arrest which was countered by his lawyer, Adv Phoofolo, who handed her a purported doctor’s sick note on behalf of Ntsie.
Later, when the case resumed, Adv Phoofolo told the court that he had failed to find his client after a breakdown of communication between them. Ntsie was nonetheless convicted in absentia. The judge did not sentence him, presumably because there was no sentencing trial after his escape.
During the trial, Ntsie had argued that he shot Messrs Mahao and Masupha in self-defence. He claimed that on the fateful day the two were armed with AK-47 rifles and wanted to kill him. However, on 9 August 2012, the High Court found Ntsie guilty of double murder.
During his court appearance, Ntsie had also claimed to know who killed Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s son, Maile, in 2002, a murder case which has since gone cold.
Almost a year after his disappearance from the High Court, Mr Ntsie was arrested while attempting to buy a car in Vereeniging near Johannesburg. He was later released on M10 000 bail by the Vereeniging Magistrate’s Court. He has since been in court as the extradition proceedings unfolded.
His deportation to Maseru finally got the greenlight and the photographer was brought back in March this year by heavily armed Interpol and South African Police Service (SAPS) officers travelling in more than 10 cars. He was handed over to Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) officers from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) who were already on standby to receive him at the Maseru border.
The officers then read to him his new charge of fleeing from justice and asked if he had been subjected to any torture while in transit to Lesotho. He said he understood the charges and had not been tortured.