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Ramoepane to wait longer in Motšomotšo murder case

Nat Molomo/ Mohalenyane Phakela

THE case against Lesotho Defence Force officer, Major Pitso Ramoepane, who stands accused of murdering former army commander, Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo, has been postponed to June 19 2019 for mention.

The Acting Judge of the High Court, Justice Polo Banyane, on Friday postponed the case to give Major Ramoepane the chance to decide whether or not he will appeal against the 2 May 2019 Constitutional Court judgment which dismissed his application for the nullification of the government decision to recruit foreign judges to try his and other criminal cases involving politicians, serving and former members of the security agencies.

Major Ramoepane has been detained in the Maseru Maximum Security Prison since September 2017 after being arrested in connection with the murder of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo on 5 September 2017 at Ratjomose Barracks.

Two senior LDF officers, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi were also killed during the incident.

Major Ramoepane first appeared before the Magistrate’s Court on 28 September 2017 when the charges relating to the death of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo were preferred against him.

His case in one of the high profile cases which have stalled due to the non-arrival of foreign judges to try them and also because of the lawsuit against the recruitment of the foreign judges which was filed by Major Ramoepane and 13 others.

The Constitutional Court on 2 May 2019 dismissed an application that had been brought before it by Major Ramoepane, former Minister of Defence and National Security, Tšeliso Mokhosi, former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, and 14 others seeking the nullification of the recruitment of foreign judges to try their criminal cases.

The other 13 applicants in the constitutional suit were Thabo Tšukulu, Mothibeli Mofolo, Mabitle Matona, Rapele Mphaki, Lekhooa Moepi, Mahlele Moeletsi, Mahlomola Makhoali, Nthatakane Motanyane, Motšoane Machai, Liphapang Sefako, Nemase Faso, Tieho Tikiso and Litekanyo Nyakane.

They filed their application on 15 February 2019. They wanted the appointment of the foreign judges by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to be nullified on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. They argued that the JSC did not act independently as it was coerced by the government into recruiting foreign judges who would do the government’s bidding by ensuring that they are found guilty of the charges brought against them. They argued that the JSC should have been left alone to independently recruit judges.

In delivering its judgement, the Constitutional Court bench made up of Justices Thamsanqa Nomngcongo, Lebohang Molete and Moroke Mokhesi dismissed the application, saying the government acted within the constitution in seeking the assistance of foreign judges to try the cases.

Major Ramoepane also faces a culpable homicide charge for allegedly shooting and killing Thabo Selemo in Tšenola, Motse-mocha on 25 August 2007.

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