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Metsing, Mochoboroane relaunch fight against treason charges

Mohalenyane Phakela

POLITICIANS Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane have filed a fresh High Court application to stop the state from trying them for treason and murder alongside former army commander Tlali Kamoli and others.

Their application will be heard on Tuesday by Botswana Judge Onkemetse Tshosa. Justice Tshosa is also the presiding judge in the treason and murder trial.

Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane argue that they cannot be summarily joined to the treason and murder trial. They argue that they cannot be tried in the High Court without first being remanded in the magistrates’ court as demanded by the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

They initially filed a High Court application challenging the decision to join them to the trial in February 2021. But Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane declined to make a ruling and referred the matter back to the trial Judge Tshosa. Justice Sakoane ruled that only Justice Tshosa had the jurisdiction to determine Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane’s application. Unhappy with the decision, the duo then appealed to the Court of Appeal.

In the apex court, they also challenged the Constitutional Court’s November 2020 judgement outlawing clause 10 of the October 2018 SADC-brokered government-opposition agreement which sought to shield them and other politicians from prosecution until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms.

In the Court of Appeal’s 14 May 2021 judgement read out by its president, Justice Kananelo Mosito, the apex court said it had resolved to dismiss Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane’s appeal against the Constitutional Court verdict on the grounds that the duo had merely brought before them a case which was “based on issues that had been decided before by the courts”.

The court also upheld Justice Sakoane’s decision that only the trial Judge Tshosa had the jurisdiction to determine whether or not they could not be joined to the treason and murder trial without first being remanded in the magistrates’ court.

They have now filed an application before Justice Tshosa just as they had been ordered by Justice Sakoane back in February. Their latest move has caused the postponement of the treason and murder trial. The trial was supposed to start on Friday and Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Kamoli and his three co-accused soldiers were in court on that day.

The three co-accused soldiers are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane and Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.

However, the trial had to be postponed after the lead prosecutor, South African Advocate Shaun Abrahams, told Justice Tshosa that Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane had resolved to challenge the decision to join them to the trial.

Adv Abrahams then asked the judge to set a date for hearing Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane’s application.

Justice Tshosa subsequently ordered that “the arguments as to joining the two other persons will be on 15 June 2021”.

The treason charges are in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Mr Metsing, who leads the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), was deputy prime minister at the time of the attempted coup while Movement for Economic Change (MEC) leader and current Development Planning Minister Mochoboroane was Communications minister and LCD secretary general at the time.

Lt-Gen Kamoli had been fired by Mr Thabane from his post as army commander on 29 August 2014 before allegedly orchestrating the attempted coup allegedly with the support of Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane, Captain Nyakane and Lance Corporals Ntsane and Motsieloa. Messrs Thabane and Metsing had fallen out with the latter alleging he was not being consulted on key decisions.

The murder case is in connection with the killing of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko which occurred during the same attempted coup against Mr Thabane’s government on 30 August 2014.

Justice Tshosa also postponed the trial of 10 soldiers accused of murdering three civilians in 2017.

The postponement will enable him to first hear the recusal application filed against him by one of the 10 soldiers, Major Pitso Ramoepane, on 1 April 2021.

He will hear the recusal application on 25 June 2021.

The application stems from the 25 March 2021 proceedings when Justice Tshosa entered a “not guilty” plea on behalf of Major Ramoepane and his co-accused. This after they had repeatedly pleaded that Justice Tshosa lacked the jurisdiction to try them.

Major Ramoepane is accused alongside Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Privates Nthathakane Motanyane, Tieho Tikiso, Motšoane Machai, Liphapang Sefako and Nemase Faso.

They allegedly strangled Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela and Khothatso Makibinyane at Setibing in rural Maseru on 16 May 2017 and dumped them in Mohale Dam.

They allegedly kidnapped and murdered the three men after the trio had just been released from police custody where they were detained in connection with a shooting incident that occurred at the Maseru border gate on 13 May 2017.

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