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Magistrate recuses himself in editor shooting case

by Sunday Express
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Tefo Tefo

SENIOR Resident Magistrate Phethise Motanyane on Friday recused himself from presiding over an attempted murder case involving five soldiers who allegedly shot and injured Lesotho Times editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, in July 2016.

The five army officers are Brigadier Rapele Mphaki (47), Colonel Khutlang Mochesane (57), Mahanyane Phusumane (37), Nyatso Tšoeunyane (41) and Maribe Nathane (35).

They allegedly shot Mr Mutungamiri at his home in Upper Thamae in Maseru during the late hours of 9 July 2016, after he had knocked off from work. He sustained severe facial, dental and hand injuries, causing him to undergo extensive surgery in South Africa.

It had been anticipated that the long awaited trial would finally kick off on 15 March this year when the five appeared before Magistrate Motanyane but on that day their lawyer, Advocate Kabelo Letuka, immediately informed the court that they intended to formally apply for the senior resident magistrate to recuse himself from the case for undisclosed reasons.

One of the accused soldiers, Col Mochesane, on 23 April 2018 filed an application before the Magistrate’s Court seeking the recusal of Mr Motanyane on the grounds that the magistrate would not be impartial in adjudicating over the case.

Col Mochesane suggested in his affidavit that Mr Motanyane could not be relied on to be impartial in the trial because he (Col Mochesane) investigated a case in which Mr Motanyane clashed with another magistrate who had accused him of playing political songs that “irritated her”.

“I aver that some years ago, it came to my attention that there had been a very serious falling out between two magistrates who were stationed in Mohale’s Hoek. One of those magistrates was His Worship Mr Motanyane, Col Mochesane stated in his affidavit.

Col Mochesane said he gathered the allegations against Mr Motanyane when he (Col Mochesane) was still attached to the Military Intelligence (MI) department of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

“I am aware that at the heart of that falling out were political differences, with one magistrate accusing His Worship Mr Motanyane of playing political songs that irritated her,” Col Mochesane further stated.

And on Friday, Mr Motanyane recused himself from the case.

He however, said his recusal did not mean that the allegations raised against him were true.

“Although I do not agree with the false and serious allegations against me in the applicant’s founding affidavit, I hereby recuse myself in this case so that justice should be seen to be done,” Mr Motanyane ruled.

The case will have to be re-allocated to another magistrate to preside over it.

The case was initially allocated to Resident Magistrate Polo Banyane but was later re-allocated to Mr Motanyane in March this year after the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Hlalefang Motinyane, directed that the case should be heard by a magistrate of the rank of Senior Resident Magistrate.


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