Tempers flare as judge postpones Kamoli treason trial
THERE was drama in the High Court after Botswana Judge Onkemetse Tshosa angrily chided defence lawyer Kabelo Letuka for suggesting the judge was lying when he said that the defence had not filed any papers to oppose politicians’ Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane’s High Court application for a postponement of their treason and murder trial.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Metsing, who leads the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Development Planning Minister Mochoboroane, who leads the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) have been charged alongside former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and three others with treason against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
They have also been charged with the murder of police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko who was gunned down during the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against Mr Thabane’s then government.
Their three co-accused are soldiers Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporals Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsieloa.
Justice Tshosa postponed the trial due to 17 May 2021 to allow the Court of Appeal to first deliver its verdict in Messrs Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane’s application to stop the state from prosecuting them alongside Kamoli and others.
They have appealed against the November 2020 Constitutional Court judgement which nullified clause 10 of an October 2018 SADC-brokered government-opposition agreement which shielded them and other politicians from prosecution until after the implementation of the multi-sector reforms.
They have also appealed against Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane’s 9 February 2021 constitutional judgement wherein he declined to preside over their appeal against the prosecution’s move to join them to the murder and treason trial alongside Kamoli and the three other soldiers.
The apex court heard their appeal on 12 April and reserved judgement to 14 May 2021.
In addition, the duo also applied to the High Court for a stay of their trial. In the event of that application being unsuccessful, they also sought the postponement of their trial pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal verdict.
On Monday, Justice Tshosa postponed the treason and murder trial to 17 May 2021. This after Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane’s lawyer, Advocate Motiea Teele, had argued that the postponement was necessary to allow the Court of Appeal to pronounce itself on his clients’ appeal.
The state which was represented by South African Adv Shaun Abrahams and Adv Naki Nku did not oppose Adv Teele’s application which was duly granted by Justice Tshosa.
The decision of the learned judge did not go down well with Adv Letuka and two other lawyers representing the accused soldiers. The other two lawyers are Advocates Lepeli Moeketsi and Napo Mafaesa. They and Adv Letuka argued that the trial could not be postponed to accommodate the “absent” Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane.
“We filed an opposing affidavit to (Metsing and Mochoboroane’s) stay of proceedings application in which we strongly opposed the postponement of the trial which prejudices my client (Captain Nyakane),” Adv Letuka submitted.
“Who are these people (Metsing and Mochoboroane) that this trial should be postponed because of them? They are not accused persons. The accused persons are already in the dock and want their trial to proceed,” added Adv Letuka.
In his response, Justice Tshosa said Adv Letuka had only opposed the postponement of proceedings not Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane’s application for a stay of the proceedings. Adv Letuka countered by saying this was not true as they had opposed both the stay and postponement application.
His submission provoked an angry response from Justice Tshosa who accused Adv Letuka of calling him a liar for having said there was nowhere in Adv Letuka’s court papers where he had opposed Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane’s application for a stay of proceedings.
“Am I lying? I will not be lectured about the law by you,” Justice Tshosa charged.
“I have been lenient to you. But one of these days I will exercise my powers. This is not some customary court but the High Court. The suggestion by defence that the continuation of the trial is against the Speedy Court Trial Act is very worrying when it is them who have been delaying the trial.
“They are the ones who withdrew their representation for their clients and their letter is on record before the Chief Justice.
“They also made several applications which deferred this matter and for them to argue that their clients are being denied a speedy trial is beyond imagination. The matter is postponed to 17 May 2021,” Justice Tshosa ruled.
All the while, Kamoli and his co-accused appeared to be enjoying the verbal exchanges between Justice Tshosa and Adv Letuka as they constantly laughed before the judge eventually ordered Adv Letuka to sit down.
Adv Molapo and Mafaesa also submitted that the postponement was prejudicial to their clients. They insisted that the trial should proceed without Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane.