Mokaloba implicated in murder cases
PROMINENT lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati, says Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Inspector General Ramanka Mokaloba’s name features prominently in most of the high profile murder cases involving serving and former members of the security agencies. Adv Molati subsequently asked if the top soldier would be prosecuted or turned into a state witness in the criminal trials.
Adv Molati made the remarks on Thursday during the High Court appearance of his clients, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Private Nthatakane Motanyane and Major Pitso Ramoepana. The trio are among 10 soldiers accused of murdering three civilians in Maseru in May 2017.
The other seven soldiers are Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Motšoane Machai, Tieho Tikiso, 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 the Mohale Dam.
The soldiers 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.
Addressing Botswana judge, Justice Kabelo Lebotse on Thursday during his clients’ remand appearance, Adv Molati said Insp-Gen Mokaloba’s name had cropped as a potential suspect in most of the murder cases involving serving and former members of the security agencies.
He asked Justice Lebotse if Insp-Gen Mokaloba would be charged at some point in the future or turned into a state witness against his army colleagues.
Justice Lebotse, replied by saying that it was premature for Adv Molati to bring up the issue as it was one of those that could be raised at the pre-trial conference expected to get underway on 26 September 2019.
“There is one soldier, fourth in the hierarchy of the LDF command, by the name Ramanka Mokaloba. It is less likely that he may not be incriminated in most if not all the trials including this one,” Adv Molati said.
“At the moment, he (Insp-Gen Mokaloba) is neither accused nor forms part of the witnesses list. So we are wondering if the crown will call him later on when he is subject to the debatable issues before this court as one of the accused. Should he be turned into a state witness, we need to know now so we can prepare our defence.”
Justice Lebotse replied by saying that it was premature for Adv Molati to bring up the issue as it was one of those that could be raised at the pre-trial conference (PTC) expected to get underway on 26 September 2019.
“I think that discussion (about Insp-Gen Mokaloba) will be part of the pre-trial conference as its purpose is to determine how the trial will proceed. So it would be premature to talk about the issue. I also think this is an issue you should discuss with the crown and only involve me if you encounter challenges,” Justice Lebotse said.
Insp-Gen Mokaloba has previously been quizzed by the police over two murder and attempted murder cases involving former LDF commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
In November 2017, Insp-Gen Mokaloba was quizzed by the police over the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesaiah Thabane, ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana.
Again in May 2019, Insp-Gen Mokaloba was summoned for questioning over the 30 August 2014 attempted coup which led to the murder of Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko, allegedly by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
Lt-Gen Kamoli has since been charged with murder and attempted murder in the two cases.
Adv Molati also complained that the prosecution was secretive with information and that hindered them from effectively preparing for the trials of their clients. Justice Lebotse insisted that the defence lawyers should engage the prosecution and the Registrar of the High Court over their grievances.
Another lawyer representing the accused soldiers, Adv Kabelo Letuka, said the 26 September 2019 date for the pre-trial conference was not ideal as his clients still had a pending court application to compel the state to pay their legal fees. The 10 are among 32 soldiers, including Lt-Gen Kamoli, who want the government to pay their legal fees. The case is scheduled for hearing tomorrow before Zimbabwean judge, Justice Charles Hungwe.
“I have a problem with the 26 September 2019 date because there is a case pending before this court regarding the accused’s Pro Deo application (for the government to pay legal fees). The accused therefore find it hard to instruct us not knowing what the outcome will be because if they lose, we may be forced to withdraw from representing them,” Adv Letuka said.
Justice Lebotse replied by saying the Pro Deo application did not affect the pre-trial conference.
“The Pro Deo application should not stall this case because if you are successful you will get your money but if you lose then nothing changes. There is no prejudice to be suffered by the accused.
“The matter is postponed to 26 September 2019 for the pre-trial conference and in the meantime you should meet with prosecution and registrar to iron out any issues,” Justice Lebotse ordered.