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Soldier admits shooting Lesotho Times editor

  • says he “may have shot while obeying superior LDF orders”

Mohalenyane Phakela

ATTEMPTED murder-accused retired soldier, Khutlang Mochesane, has confessed to shooting Lesotho Times and Sunday Express Editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, at the latter’s Ha Thamae, Maseru home in July 2016.

Mochesane told the court that he “may have shot Mr Mutungamiri while obeying superior Lesotho Defence Force orders”. He made the confession in an affidavit which he submitted to the High Court as part of his ultimately unsuccessful application for bail.

Botswana judge, Justice Onkemetse Tshosa, on Thursday denied him bail application on the grounds that he made inconsistent claims at one point denying shooting Mr Mutungamiri and then saying he may have shot him. Justice Lebotse said if granted bail, a suspect who gave contradicting statements could not be trusted not to abscond trial.

“It has been submitted by the Director of Public Prosecutions that the appellant in his own affidavit, firstly denies shooting Mr Mutungamiri but again says he may have shot him while following superior orders and this is also supported by the affidavit of Lance Sergeant Thamae (investigating police officer) who also says the appellant confessed to shooting the victim.

“The court cannot take him seriously, particularly for giving contradicting statements. In my view, detention of the petitioner at Maseru Central Correctional Institution cannot amount to anticipated punishment but to ensure he stands trial. Therefore, application for bail is refused,” Justice Lebotse ruled.

Mochesane had applied for bail, saying he could not effectively consult his lawyer while in custody. He had also submitted that he would not abscond trial because all his assets are in Lesotho and that he cooperated with the police during interrogation up to the time he was detained.

However, Justice Tshosa ruled that due to the severe sentence Mochesane is likely to get, it was highly possible that he would abscond.

“While the constitution of Lesotho gives him (Mochesane) a right to a bail, it also says he should stand trial. The court will always grant bail where possible but it has to balance the interests of justice and liberty of the petitioner. The petitioner is likely to face a severe penalty if convicted therefore the court ought not to grant him bail.

“He further says his continued incarceration prevented him to consult his lawyer effectively and that consultation hours at the correctional facility are 9am to 11am and 12pm to 3pm in consultation rooms shared by all inmates. The said times are not restrictive but give him ample time to consult with his lawyer,” Justice Tshosa ruled.

Mochesane was represented by Advocate Kabelo Letuka while Advocate Thulo Hoeane appeared for the state.

He is charged with attempted murder in connection with the 2016 shooting of Mr Mutungamiri.

He is charged alongside Rapele Mphaki, Nyatso Tšoeunyane and Maribe Nathane. A fifth soldier, Mochesane Phusumane, was recently turned into a state witness and subsequently released from prison.

Mr Mutungamiri was shot and injured at his Upper Thamae home on 15 July 2016.

Prior to his shooting, journalist Keiso Mohloboli had been summoned for interrogation by police and military officials in connection with a story about negotiations for an exit package for the then army commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, in line with a Southern African Development Community (SADC) recommendation for his removal from post.

The Lesotho Times’ publisher and chief executive officer, Basildon Peta, was also charged with criminal defamation arising from a complaint laid against the newspaper by Lt-Gen Kamoli over the satirical column, Scrutator.

Two days after Mr Peta appeared in court, Mr Mutungamiri was shot. One bullet broke two of his right-hand fingers and another shattered his lower jaw, requiring him to undergo specialised dental surgery to manage the jaw and to remove a bullet that lodged behind his left ear. He also sustained eye injuries after broken window glasses entered and cut his eyes, among other facial injuries.

The police said that their investigations revealed that the attempted assassination of Mr Mutungamiri was part of an operation which had been authorised by the army.

Meanwhile, Maseru Senior Resident Magistrate, Peter Murenzi, on Thursday set 3 to 5 March 2020 as the trial dates for the accused soldiers.

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