Lesotho: Lack of Funds Stalls Tang Murder Trial

10 December 2019

The High Court will no longer finalise the murder trial of three soldiers accused of killing Lisebo Tang on 9 May 2014 after the state failed to raise funds to bring in two of the three remaining witness from China and South Africa.

The three soldiers; Tjekane Sebolai, Selone Ratšiu and Kopano Matsoso stand accused of killing Ms Tang, attempting to kill Tšepo Jane and damaging the latter's vehicle as well as defeating the ends of justice. The incident happened on the night of 9 May 2014 when the three soldiers were guarding the residence of former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.

They appeared before Justice Kabelo Lebotse who had anticipated that the trial would end tomorrow but the prosecution instead asked for a postponement.

Prosecutor Advocate Lepeli Molapo told the court that they had failed to bring in the two witnesses from outside the country after being told by the state that there were no funds.

"The prosecution is left with three witnesses, two of whom are outside our jurisdiction as one is in China and another in South Africa," Adv Molapo said.

"We approached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the witness in China but were told that there was no money to bring him immediately... The same applies to the one in South Africa, therefore we ask for postponement.

"I make a firm promise that if we fail to secure the two witnesses... ., the crown will close its case," Adv Molapo said.

Justice Lebotse then postponed the case to 17 and 19 February 2020 while emphasizing that he was unhappy that justice was being delayed.

"I am used to hearing the accused persons saying that they do not have funds and not the state saying it does not have money to deliver justice. We should not be delayed by administration. This is a serious process involving people who need to know their fate. Although this is an issue that I am unhappy with, we cannot ignore the problems of the purse holder (the government). The trial will continue from 17 to 19 February 2020," Justice Lebotse said.

The trial ran from the 12th to the 15th of November 2019 and was supposed to continue yesterday ending tomorrow. So far, seven witnesses have testified while two police officers and two pathologists have also submitted their reports.

Meanwhile, Justice Onkemetse Tshosa postponed to 9 December 2019 his ruling on whether Major Pitso Ramoepana may be acquitted of charges of murdering former army commander, Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo, to make way for an inquest into the 5 September 2017 murder. Crown counsel in the matter, Advocate Naki Nku told the Lesotho Times that they had been informed by the judge that he would only be ready to deliver the ruling on Monday.

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