Thabane says looking for a hangman

Thabane says looking for a hangman

MASERU – ON Christmas Day 16 years ago, Mokutsu Busumane was beaten with a lebetlela stick (a plain, solid, fairly heavy stick) during a dispute at a beer drink. Busumane suffered severe wounds and later died.
Witnesses who testified at the trial in the High Court said they saw Moroa Ha-Busoe Chabeli hitting the deceased “many times” on the head with his stick “until he was satisfied”.

A post-mortem report submitted in court cited the cause of Busumane’s death as “brain tissue laceration; cut skull bone in the right facial region”.
The report added that an examination of the skull had revealed “brain laceration, fracture of frontal bone, zygomatic bone and right parietal bones”.
At the end of a dramatic trial on 29 October 2007, Justice Mahase sentenced Chabeli to death for the murder of Busumane.
The judge said she had not found any extenuating circumstances during the trial. Chabeli appealed the judgment in the Court of Appeal.

The case was heard on March 28, 2008 with judgment being delivered on April 11, 2008. In a stunning judgment delivered by Justice J W Smalberger, the court ruled that in striking further blows on the deceased, Chabeli had “clearly exceeded the bounds of self-defence and unlawfully caused the death of the deceased”.

It also ruled that the High Court had failed to establish the requisite “intention to kill” on the part of Chabeli “either in the form of direct intention or dolus eventualis and the appropriate verdict is therefore one of culpable homicide”.  The Court of Appeal altered the conviction and set aside Chabeli’s death sentence.

It said the court should have also considered that a fair amount of alcohol had been consumed prior to the assault.
“There were clearly extenuating circumstances” and no justification for the imposition of the death penalty.
“This court has emphasized in the past that the death penalty should not lightly be imposed; it is only called for in exceptional cases where there is no possible extenuation and where no other sentence would be adequate.”

And now fast-forward to 2017, nine years after that landmark judgment.
The issue of the death sentence came to the fore once more after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane told Parliament on Monday that he wants all individuals convicted of murder hanged.

“I am looking for a hangman who will do the job in the country,” Thabane said. He said it is wrong for Lesotho to place more emphasis on protecting the rights of criminals while victims of crime are left to lick their wounds. Thabane was responding to Justice Minister Dr Mahali Phamotse’s request of M233 million under this year’s budget in parliament on Monday.

Lesotho still has provision in the law for sentencing murder and high treason convicts to death.
However, most of the death sentences are often overturned in the Court of Appeal. The last person to be hanged in Lesotho was in 1994.
Most of the Court of Appeal judges, until recently, were from South Africa where death sentence is frowned upon. The death sentence was outlawed in South Africa in 1994.

Death sentences for murder convicts in Lesotho are often reduced to prison terms of between 15 and 25 years.
Opposing popular views that sentencing criminals to the gallows is anti-human rights, Thabane said the United States is a world acclaimed protector of democracy and human rights “but it still maintains the death sentence”.

He questioned the logic behind offering state sponsored legal services to crime suspects through the Legal Aid Department, which falls under Phamotse’s Justice Ministry, “while nothing is done for the victims of crime”. Thabane said it is illogical that taxpayers’ money should be spent on making criminals comfortable but there is nothing in the budget for helping law-abiding citizens who are victims of brutal acts of crime.

“It is a common feature in today’s correctional services that the whole focus is on perpetrators while the victims are forgotten,” Thabane said.
He said in most cases, victims are forgotten and “we will only be hearing of the perpetrators’ human rights”. He said legal aid lawyers are paid with the nation’s taxes but they represent the law- breakers. He also said it is wrong to call a prison a correctional institution.
“It should just be called a prison,” he said.

“What do you correct there?” he asked. “The criminals are sent to jail not correctional (institution).” “How can you correct someone who has stabbed his wife to death?” he further asked. The Prime Minister said there are some people who kill others for no justifiable reason.
“It is now the right time that the law should take its course,” he said.

The Prime Minister insisted that prison should not be a place of comfort. Prison is meant to make people desist from committing crime, he said.
Thabane said the Lesotho Correctional Services staff should be trained to deal with dangerous people in the prison cells.
Thabane said all people are created with the image of God “but there are some people who decide to eliminate others’ lives for no good reasons”.
He also said women should stop aborting their pregnancies.

He said the ministry should be well resourced to execute all its duties.  He said Lesotho as a country whose majority citizens are Christians, “Lesotho should not tolerate crimes at all costs”. He said there should be a heavy punishment for rapists.
He said the government will have a zero tolerance to crime.

Thabane said there are some Basotho livestock farmers who are now left with nothing but their fingers to count because of cattle raiders.
Phamotse said her ministry has to roll out legal aid offices to other districts of the country. And this will in turn help to reduce the backlog of cases which lead to a delay of justice. She said her ministry is set to convert incorrigible criminals into law-abiding citizens.

Majara Molupe

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