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Treason case allocated new judge

By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – In what could be termed a baptism of fire, the newly appointed Judge Maliepollo Makhetha has been assigned to preside over the treason case.

The treason case is one of the ongoing “high profile” cases before the High Court.

This is after the Court of Appeal made a ruling that removed the presiding officer, Chief Justice (CJ) Sakoane Sakoane over this case.

Judge Makhetha is the third judge to hear this case. It was first allocated to Judge Onkemetse Tshosa who resigned midway in 2021.

The CJ took over the case towards the end of 2021 until April when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane approached the apex court, petitioning it to reverse the recusal ruling handed down by the former.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeal said the CJ ought to have acceded to the DPP’s application for recusal and stepped down from the case.

The DPP had accused him of bias saying he would not bring an impartial mind into the matter.

“… I now hold a very strong view [that] the Honourable Chief Justice’s conduct in this trial, especially against the Crown, has created a serious perceptions (sic) that the Honourable Chief Justice is biased against the Crown and will not bring an impartial mind to bear on the adjudication of the trial of the accused.

“The expected and most anticipated impartiality of this Court in the administration of justice in the current proceedings has gravely been tainted by the conduct of His Lordship presiding,” the DPP had argued.

In handing down the ruling, the court held that: “I have carefully considered the complaints by the DPP in the light of the facts of this case. I have kept in mind that it is not a small matter for the DPP, in effect the Crown, to apply for the recusal of the CJ of the country from presiding over a case of such as a high-profile nature.

“I have come to the conclusion that in all the circumstances of this case, the CJ should have acceded to the request of his recusal.”

The highest court in the land further ordered that the case “shall be allocated by the Registrar to another judge”.

Also, the second court of record has reinstated the lead Prosecutor, Advocate Shaun Abrahams from the case, whom the CJ had denied an audience after conducting an enquiry that found him to have committed “professional misconduct”.

The newly assigned presiding officer made her first appearance on Tuesday this week.

The defense counsels had intimated that they will move an application to quash the indictment.

The accused had not pleaded as yet.

It would be recalled that all the accused had filed an application to quash the indictment and the separation of trials for the fifth and sixth accused is former Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Mothetjoa Metsing and Minister of Development Planning Hon. Selibe Mochoborane respectively.

The fifth accused remains at large and has never made a court appearance and the warrant of arrest has been issued for him.

The crown counsel, lead prosecutor Advocate Abrahams submitted that since these applications are “so interlinked” they should be heard at the same time.

For his part, Advocate Letuka Molati said they will leave the issue in the hands of the court to determine the way forward, adding that as the defence team they are prepared to go either way; either the applications are heard separately or consolidated.

Advocate Motiea Teele King’s Counsel (KC) said too much time had been spent in these proceedings, appealing that the processes may be expedited as that “will least extend the duration of the proceedings”.

He further committed their willingness to assist the presiding officer for smooth proceedings of the case.

The accused are former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, Litekano Nyakane, Motloheloa Ntsane and Leutsoa Motsielo, Hon. Selibe Mochoborane and Hon. Metsing who has never made a court appearance and a warrant of arrest had been issued for him.

They face charges ranging from treason, murder, attempted murder, and aggravated assault. However, Ntsane and Motsieloa will not be tried on charges relating to treason, attempted murder, and aggravated assault. 

The matter has been stood down to October 25.