Botswana judge warns Lesotho judicial officers
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By Itumeleng Koleile
Botswana’s former judge, Justice Onkemetse Tshosa—on a special assignment in Lesotho—this week warning against cases dragging as he postponed murder trial of nine soldiers who disposed of bodies of their victims in deep waters of Mohale Dam.
Justice Tshosa said the parties to the case will on September 14 appear before court for mention and to agree on a new trial date.
The Judge warned judicial officer and said “as officers of the law, we need to ensure that trials take-off and avoid having cases drag for a long time”.
Justice Tshosa was supposed to hear trial the soldiers accused of killing three men and dumping their bodies in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project’s Mohale Dam in 2017.
Initially, the trial was supposed to start on Monday, August 31, the day of its postponement to September 14. The trial of the nine soldiers was set to end on September 15 until it was discovered that all necessary court records were not ready for trial to begin.
The Judge emphasized the significance of the availability of all the documents pertaining to the trial as the trial has been postponed due to the unavailability of some documents.
The soldiers facing murder trial are Pitso Ramoepane, Lekhooa Moepi, Mahlehle Moeletsi, Mahlomola Makhoali, Nthakane Motanyane Rapele Mphaki, Motšoane Machai, Liphapang Sefako, and Nemase Faso.
South African former Director of Public Prosecutions hired also to prosecute the soldiers, Advocate Shawn Abrahams had told the court prior to the agreement on postponement that due to the unavailability of court record that he had requested it is only fair that the trial date is postponed.
He said the High Court registrar made the record available on August 21 and the transcribers were still busy transcribing it.
“The registrar made a promise that the record will only be available after a week,” he said.
Abrahams said although the trial was set to begin today and end on September 15, it is only fair that they wait for the record as it is vital in the trial proceedings.
“We are ready for the trial, witnesses have been lined up and we would really like for the trial to take off, however, our hands are tied as the necessary elements, in this case, are unavailable,” Abrams said.
However, advocate Qalehang Letsika made the court aware of the fact that postponing trial means more expenses on the accused persons as they are meant to book lawyers once more.
In the same hearing, advocate Kabelo Letuka pleaded with the court to intervene in the matter pertaining to his client, Ramoepane, whose doctor’s recommendations seem to be alienated.
“His condition forces him to consume food items recommended by the doctor; however he said it has been a while since his client ate as per the doctor’s orders,” he told the court.
He said since the breakdown of the Covid-19 pandemic, upon following the precautionary rules; prisoners not having visitors, he has not been following the doctor’s orders.
“It is my plea that even if it is on a weekly basis my client be given the necessary food items as per his medical book. That would still be acceptable,” he said.
The soldiers are accused of having kidnapped, murdering and disposing of the three men: Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela and Khothatso Makibinyane into Mohale Dam on May 16, 2017.