…as lawyer argues case had been ‘politicized’
The trial of Koalabata double murder suspect, Lehlohonolo Scott, has been postponed to 5 May 2015 after his lawyer on Thursday told the Verulam Magistrate’s Court that he needed to investigate reports in the Lesotho media that the matter had since been politicised.
Advocate Nkanyiso Maphumulo asked the court to defer trial as he needed to verify media reports that the previous coalition government was allegedly “paying for my client’s legal fees”.
The lawyer argued such claims had made his client fearful that if extradited to Lesotho, he could be killed. Lesotho upholds the death penalty while South Africa does not.
The Sunday Express understands Advocate Maphumulo was referring to a statement made by Democratic Congress leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, prior to the 28 February 2015 snap elections, in which he accused the then Dr Thomas Thabane-led government of allegedly paying Scott’s legal fees through Lesotho’s Durban Consulate.
The statement by Dr Mosisili, who is now Lesotho’s prime minister, was widely reported by the local media.
As evidence, Advocate Maphumulo presented copies of the story in question before the Verulam Magistrate’s Court, noting such statements could see Scott being sentenced to death if extradited to Lesotho.
Scott’s trial had been scheduled to re-start last Tuesday but was postponed to Thursday after he refused to be represented by a lawyer from the South African Legal Aid, Advocate Madlala, arguing he had secured himself a private lawyer.
Scott (29) on Tuesday told the court he had managed to pay his previous lawyer, Advocate Mazibuko, who works with Advocate Maphumulo. The lawyers had earlier dumped him due to outstanding fees.
He then rejected the Legal Aid’s Advocate Madlala, who had been sourced to represent him free of charge by the South African government, insisting he would be defended by Advocate Mazibuko.
However, Advocate Mazibuko was not available in court and on his mobile phone when the court wanted to kick-start the trial on Tuesday.
Magistrate Mdunge then delayed the case by two days. However, when Advocate Maphumulo finally came to court on Thursday, he requested further postponement of the case, indicating there should be “proper handover of the matter from the Legal Aid to us”.
Magistrate Mdunge then rescheduled the matter for 5-7 May 2015 for Advocate Maphumulo to investigate if the matter had truly been politicised and also for a proper handover from Legal Aid.
Meanwhile, the trial, which had been before the Durban North Magistrate’s Court since April 2014, is starting all over again because it was being heard in the “wrong court”.
Public Prosecutor V Moodley, on 9 March 2015, said the case should be before the Verulam Magistrate’s Court, which is about 25 kilometers from Durban North, but still in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
Ms Moodley, who took over the case from the retired Blackie Swart, explained she had realized that when Scott was arrested by the South African police on 6 April 2014, he was in an area under the jurisdiction of Verulam and not the Durban North Magistrate’s Court.
She argued if the case continued and judgment was in favour of the prosecution, Scott could appeal on the grounds he had been convicted in the wrong court.
Following this notification, Magistrate Vanitha Armu struck the case off the Durban North Magistrate’s Court roll and transferred it to Verulam “for a fresh start”.
Scott is accused of brutally killing and mutilating fellow Koalabata residents, Moholobela Seetsa (13) and Kamohelo Mohata (22) in 2012, allegedly for ritual purposes.
After being arrested on 12 July 2012 alongside his mother ’Malehlohonolo, Scott escaped from Maseru Central Prison on 14 October 2012, as he awaited trial.
Meanwhile, in addition to murder, Scott would also be charged with escaping from lawful custody following his dramatic jailbreak. But after his arrest by the South African police on 5 April 2014, Scott claimed he was not a Lesotho citizen but a South African, hence he could not be extradited.
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