A strategic seminar held this week in Teyateyaneng for local senior judicial officials has halted the case in which four soldiers are accused of the attempted murder of the former editor of the Lesotho Times and Sunday Express newspapers, Lloyd Mutungamiri.
Dec. 7, 2022
3 min read
Strategic judicial seminar interrupts editor trial
Former Lesotho Times editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri
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The marathon trial was expected to continue in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
When the matter that is before Senior Resident Magistrate Peter Murenzi was postponed earlier on November 22, the court was yet to decide whether or not to transfer the case to the High Court.
The three-day judicial assembly, which ends on Friday is the first of its kind to be held in Lesotho in 10 years.
The convention will see all judges of the High Court and magistrates from all the 10 districts interface to discuss and develop strategies for improved and efficient service delivery and dispensation of justice for Basotho.
Mutungamiri, who is a Zimbabwean national, is also the former editor of the Public Eye Newspaper.
He suffered near-fatal gunshot wounds during an alleged assassination attempt by the accused soldiers at his Lower Thamae residence in Maseru on July 9, 2016.
The shooting took place after the newsman published an article on the former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli’s exit plan.
Around the same time, the journalist who wrote the article, Keiso Mohloboli was also forced into exile.
Kamoli is currently behind bars at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison on a battery of charges including attempted murder, murder and treason.
He is charged along with his former subordinates including Rapele Mphaki, Khutlang Mochesane, Nyatso Tšoeunyane and Maribe Nathane.
The four were initially charged along with their colleague, Mahanyane Phusumane for the attempted murder of Mutungamiri.
The prosecution introduced Phusumane as an accomplice witness but the defence refused to accept his evidence,
The defence thereafter filed an application in the High Court where they sought to have a question of law referred for determination.
The defence wanted to know whether or not consulting Phusumane who was initially accused no 3 in the case in the absence of the defence contravened the accused's right to a fair trial.
The team also wanted to know whether or not turning him into an accomplice witness did not violate the rights of the accused.
Apart from requesting for the referral, the defence has also asked for a permanent stay of the proceedings because of what they call un-procedural conduct by the prosecution. They emphasised that the conduct has thrown away the fairness of the trial through the window.
They further requested that the witness be declared an unqualified witness to testify.
For their part, the prosecution argued that the application was a mere attempt by the defence to delay the proceedings.
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They stated that there is no substantial question of law raised by the defence, adding that the question which they raised was long answered in previous cases.
They further contended that the accused knew in 2019 that Phusumane would testify as a witness in the case.
Asking the court to shoot down the application, the prosecution said the law does not require the prosecution to consult the defence when they drop charges against an accused or when they turn someone into a state witness.
In 2018, the army was forced to apologise and retract a letter by the then spokesperson, threatening another Lesotho Times journalist, Pascalinah Kabi, whom it accused of being a spy and in possession of restricted documents.
But the LDF threatened that it would not take the matter lying down.
Meanwhile, the Maseru Magistrate’s Court is yet to announce when the trial will proceed.