A MURDER-ACCUSED army officer recently angered Justice Onkemetse Tshosa when rejected Advocate Lintle Tuke who had been appointed by the state to represent him in his murder trial on a pro deo basis.
Captain Litekanyo Nyakane faces several charges including treason where he is accused alongside former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, former Communications, Science and Technology Minister Selibe Mochoboroane and former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
On Thursday he appeared before Justice Tshosa along with four other soldiers, Lance Corporal Khauhelo Makoae, Lance Corporal Sebilo Sebilo, Privates Tšepo Tlakeli and Thebe Tšepe. They are accused of murdering civilians, Thabang Mosole, Monyane Matsie and Pakiso Ntala Letatabe at Ha Motanyane, Mafeteng in 2012.
Captain Nyakane got on the wrong side of Justice Tshosa when he rejected Advocate Lintle Tuke who had been appointed by the state to represent him in his murder trial on a pro deo basis. In a pro deo arrangement, the state appoints and pays a lawyer to represent a criminal suspect who would have proved to be incapable of affording to pay for his legal services.
Adv Tuke was appointed after Captain Nyakane’s lawyer, Advocate Motiea Teele King’s Counsel (KC), withdrew from the case.
The trial was initially supposed to have begun on Monday but it could not proceed because of the absence of Adv Teele who was said to have withdrawn from the case. Again, on Thursday, the trial failed to take off, this time because of Captain Nyakane’s refusal to accept Adv Tule who had been appointed to represent him on a pro deo basis.
“Adv Teele withdrew his representation for the accused number one (Captain Nyakane) and therefore Adv Tuke has been appointed on a pro deo basis to represent him,” Adv Masiphole told the court on Thursday. Adv Masiphole did not say why Adv Teele had withdrawn from the case.
“The court had ordered on Monday that a pro deo counsel should be secured on behalf of the accused if Adv Teele was no longer representing him,” added Adv Masiphole.
But immediately after Adv Tuke introduced himself as Captain Nyakane’s pro doe lawyer, the murder-accused soldier stood up and told the court that he had secured a lawyer of his choice to replace Adv Teele KC and was therefore “shocked” by the appearance of Adv Tuke.
“I found myself another lawyer who said he could not be in court today because he is appearing in another matter and would only be available next week. This is my first time to meet Adv Tuke and this means that I have two lawyers so I am asking the court to assist on the way forward from here,” Captain Nyakane said.
Justice Tshosa then stated that court proceedings had been frustrated by the absence of Captain Nyakane’s lawyer therefore he would not waste any more time and would continue the trial with Adv Tuke as Captain Nyakane’s lawyer.
“All this time since you (Captain Nyakane) appeared before me you have always maintained that you did not know where your lawyer was and therefore the court ordered that a pro deo counsel be secured for you. What we have realised is that you are playing hide and seek.
“I appreciate that you have a right to a legal representative but that right should not be abused. It is evident in your case that the right is being abused and therefore we will proceed with Adv Tuke as your counsel and you will be given an opportunity to change him but the court will proceed nonetheless,” Justice Tshosa said.
Captain Nyakane again stood up and attempted to address the court even after he was told to sit down by Justice Tshosa who had now become visibly angry.
“What I said is very clear and I believe even a child can understand that. I believe this is not the first time (behaving like that). You (Captain Nyakane) tend to deliberately frustrate the proceedings and I will not tolerate your behaviour. Sit down,” ordered Justice Tshosa.
Captain Nyakane remained standing and an irate Justice Tshosa asked whether he was going to sit down or not. It was then that Captain Nyakane finally sat down.
On his part, Adv Tuke said he had just been appointed therefore could not proceed with the case and asked for a postponement.
“I was appointed last evening (Wednesday) and I have not had the opportunity to consult with the client (Captain Nyakane) and therefore I ask the court for indulgence of at least two weeks to consult and further learn about the case as well as the witness statements which I am yet to be furnished with,” Adv Tuke said.
Adv Masiphole then told the court that the trial had already been moved 16 to 30 April 2020.
Justice Tshosa then postponed the trial to 20 April 2020, saying it would be better to start the trial on that date because on the 16th of April, the High Court would be on an Easter break.
Besides the 2012 Mafeteng murder case, Captain Nyakane is also accused of treason alongside Lt-Gen Kamoli as well as Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane.
The charges are in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of current Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
The trial has however, been put on hold pending the outcome of Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane’s Constitutional Court application for an order barring the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, from prosecuting them on the grounds that an October 2018 agreement between the governing coalition and the opposition offers them immunity from prosecution for any crime until after the completion of the multi-sector reforms.
The October 2018 agreement paved way for Mr Metsing and other opposition leaders, who had been in exile, to return to Lesotho to participate in the processes towards the implementation of constitutional, security sector, media, judicial and governance reforms recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016.
Among other things, clause 10 of the agreement states that “Mr Metsing and similarly placed persons in exile will not be subjected to any pending criminal proceedings during the dialogue and reforms process”.
It remains to be seen how the Constitutional Court will decide on the latest application as it had previously outlawed this particular clause 10 of the agreement between the government and the opposition.