A DESPERATE bid to get bail for former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, led his lawyer Advocate Letuka Molati to flout court procedures by subpoenaing high-profile witnesses that include Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
High Court Judge Justice Teboho Moiloa was on Tuesday visibly shocked to learn that Public Service Minister Thesele 'Maseribane had been subpoenaed to give testimony in Lt-Gen Kamoli's bail hearing.
Adv Molati also subpoenaed Dr Thabane and Police Ministry Principal Secretary Khothatso Tšooana. It seems the three were expected to testify on Lt-Gen Kamoli's behalf as the former LDF chief frantically seeks to secure his release on bail.
However, some legal experts have surmised that the subpoenas were possibly part of Lt-Gen Kamoli's legal team's strategy to get testimonies from the three which contradict with the state's case against him.
Lt-Gen Kamoli and three LDF members are charged with murdering Sub-Inspector Ramahloko during the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against Dr Thabane's first government.
The former army commander separately faces 14 counts of attempted murder over the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesiah Thabane, 'Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana.
Justice Moiloa asked Chief 'Maseribane what he was doing in court during the bail application. The minister explained that he had been subpoenaed to testify in Lt-Gen Kamoli's bail hearing.
To add to the drama, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho also stood up and informed the court that he was representing Dr Thabane since he had also been subpoenaed by Adv Molati.
Justice Moiloa said he had not called any of the witnesses and therefore did not understand what they were doing in court. He explained that the rules stipulated that it was the discretion of the judge to call witnesses for oral evidence in addition to the evidence contained in the affidavits. Justice Moiloa then excused Dr Thabane, Chief 'Maseribane and any other person subpoenaed.
Chief 'Maseribane's lawyer, Advocate Bereng Makotoko, was also present in court.
Both Attorney Mosotho and Advocate Makotoko said they had come to court to challenge the subpoenas calling their clients to testify on application proceedings as that was irregular.
Asked to explain what was happening, the lawyer representing the prosecution in the bail application proceedings, King's Counsel Haae Phoofolo, told the judge that he was equally "surprised" by the procedure adopted by Adv Molati who called witnesses to testify on a bail application, yet it was the prerogative of the judge to do so.
Speaking to the Lesotho Times, yesterday Attorney Mosotho said Dr Thabane was not even aware what kind of evidence he was expected to give.
He said bail applications were only decided on papers filed on record, except where there is a dispute on the veracity of the papers which might call for oral evidence.
"Fortunately, the judge picked up that issue on the onset and there was no need for us to argue," Attorney Mosotho said.
The bail application proceedings were conducted on the basis of affidavits filed in court.
However, despite being excused, Chief 'Maseribane, who was accompanied by Deputy Home Affairs Minister Machesetsa Mofomobe and his Agriculture and Food Security counterpart, Nthabiseng Makoae, calmly sat in court and followed the proceedings to finality.
Commenting on the court debacle, Mr Mofomobe last night said it was "obvious" that the petitioners of Dr Thabane; Chief 'Maseribane; and Mr Tšooana had attempted to pull an un-procedural stunt to support their bail application.
"The desperation has reached peak levels and it was very clear on Tuesday that the lawyer was willing to do whatever he can to fumble through court procedures in an attempt to get his client out of custody.
"Chief 'Maseribane is very concerned about how the lawyer un-procedurally handled the subpoena issue," Mr Mofomobe said, adding the court also sensed the "confusion and desperation" hence they did not entertain Adv Molati.
"We were shocked that the lawyer even went further as far as declaring the witnesses he had called to testify as "hostile" before they appeared before the court. I see this as a desperate and calculated move by someone who despite knowing that there is no escaping the consequences of what his client did, he remains in denial."
The judge reserved his judgment on the bail application to Tuesday next week.