MASERU — The High Court has convicted a Mafeteng man of murdering a fellow villager and sentenced him to nine years in prison — 17 years after the crime was committed!
The case is the latest to highlight the inadequacies of Lesotho’s justice delivery system.
The lethargic pace at which the country’s courts handle cases has been a cause for concern among Basotho.
Molupe Mokone, 35, from Hara-Letebele in Mafeteng will now have to do time for a crime he committed when he was 18.
Mokone and his brother Malefetsane, who has since died, were being accused of the murder of Paulosi Morie on October 31 1993.
Justice Nthomeng Majara, presiding over the case, expressed concern over the delay in dispensing with the case.
She noted it had been a “long time” since the crime was committed, adding “justice delayed is justice denied”.
“I am concerned the matter took place some 17 years ago,” the judge said.
“The assault was witnessed by people from the same area.
“It boggles the mind why the case took such a long time to be brought before the court, yet investigations could have been concluded a long time ago.”
Despite the delay, Justice Majara in her summary judgment said the accused should pay for his “barbaric and unacceptable behaviour”.
Witnesses had told the court how the accused attacked Morie, who was on his way from church in the company of his daughter.
“Their behaviour was barbaric and unacceptable,” Justice Majara said.
“She (the deceased’s daughter) must have been traumatised, especially since they were coming from church and not anticipating any trouble.
“Witnesses gave uncontested evidence that the accused beat up the victim with a heavy rod.
“Mokone and his brother continued to attack their victim even when he was down.”
Justice Majara said throughout the trial the defendant had however pleaded his innocence, insisting his late brother had attacked Morie.
“He denied taking part in the assault but testified his brother had carried out the attack,” the judge said.
“But I find the testimony highly improbable; I find it false and reject it in its entirety.
“It is very easy to be blaming someone who cannot be here to give evidence in court.”
Justice Majara said Mokone would only be away “for a short time” while Morie was lost to his family forever.
“(Mokone) was very young when he committed the crime,” she said. “Youth and emotional factors have been taken as extenuating circumstances in this trial.”