MURDER-ACCUSED Qamo Matela’s lawyer, Lepeli Molapo, has successfully petitioned High Court Judge, Tšeliso Mokoko, to order a trial within a trial. Advocate Molapo on Thursday argued that this would enable him to take the witness stand and testify that he was not present when the police recorded a confession from his client wherein the latter had “confessed” to assaulting his now deceased wife.
He said this in response to a testimony by police Detective Inspector Moeketsi Moeketsi, who had told the court that he (Molapo) was present when his client confessed to assaulting his wife. He denied being present when Matela allegedly confessed and said a trial within a trial would enable him to clear his name.
Matela is accused of murdering his wife, ‘Mahlompho Matela, (nee Rethabile Mofolo) in September 2021.
The case continued on Thursday with the third witness, Inspector Moeketsi taking the stand.
Inspector Moeketsi told the court that on 15 September 2021 he had received a report about Matela assaulting his wife from the now deceased woman’s sister, Rorisang Mofolo. He said shortly afterwards, Adv Molapo came to his Mabote Police Station office and asked him not to send his officers to arrest Matela. The lawyer promised to bring his client to the station, Insp Moeketsi said.
He said later that same day, Adv Molapo arrived with Matela as per his promise. He said Matela subsequently confessed to assaulting his wife and Adv Molapo was present when the confession was made.
“At around 2:25pm that same day, Adv Molapo indeed arrived with Matela,” Insp Moeketsi said.
“Matela told me in the presence of his lawyer that on Friday 3 September 2021 he went out to a tavern with his friend, Lekhooa Monaleli. He said when he realised that it was getting late, he texted his now deceased wife informing her that he would arrive home late, and she should lock the doors for her safety. He then told me that the deceased did not respond to his text and he made several calls but she still did not answer.
“Matela said he left the bar at around 8pm and went to his home where he found his wife preparing food for their children. He asked why she was not responding to his text and calls and there was still no answer. He said instead of answering, the deceased went to the children’s bedroom and he followed her. As soon as they entered the room, he locked the door. He said he again asked the same questions, and the deceased told him to leave her alone and that made him very furious. He then clapped and punched her on the left eye,” Inspector Moeketsi told the court.
His testimony was cut short by Adv Molapo who accused him of lying that he (Molapo) was present during the said interrogation. Since Inspector Moeketsi was implicating him, Adv Molapo said there would be need for a trial within a trial to allow him to take to the witness stand and defend himself.
“My Lord, I would like to raise my objection to that,” Adv Molapo said.
“We are challenging the admissibility of what was said either as an informal admission or confession. First of all, this was done under duress, so we want to take this matter to a trial within a trial. This means I will have to step down as the defence lawyer and stand as a witness because now I am implicated by what the witness is saying. The accused will have to get a lawyer to represent him in the trial within a trial,” Adv Molapo added.
Justice Mokoko then agreed to conduct a trial within trial.
“It would seem that trial within a trial is inevitable in this instance. The view of the court is that you went there as a legal representative of the accused to take him to the police as per your promise to the detectives. Your relationship should at all material times remain as that and the court wants it to remain as such. You were there as his legal representative, not his friend, so stick to the principles.
“The court feels both counsels should be given time to make submissions on this matter. The parties are given until Monday (tomorrow) to make their submissions and the matter will continue after lunch,” Justice Mokoko ruled.
Matela hogged the headlines in September 2021 after being accused of murdering his wife. It is alleged that he beat her in anger after she allegedly failed to give his mother M20 she had requested from her.
Ms Matela was initially ferried to Maseru Private Hospital before being transferred to Pelonomi Hospital where she died on 11 September 2021.
The trial started in September this year.
Two witnesses, namely Lekhooa Monaleli (a family friend) and Rorisang Mofolo (the later Mahlompho’s sister) have already told the court that Matela used to abuse his now deceased wife.
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