State pleads poverty in soldiers’ trial

State pleads poverty in soldiers’ trial

MASERU-THE government doesn’t have the funds to bring key crown witnesses to testify against soldiers charged for murder and attempted murder.
Two of the witnesses are in South Africa while the other is in China.
The crown wants them to give crucial evidence in a case in which several soldiers are charged with the murder of Lisebo Tang and the attempted murder of Tšepo Jane in 2014.
The prosecution this week told Justice Kenneth Lebotse that it failed to bring back the witnesses because the government said it doesn’t have money for their air tickets.
The crown’s Advocate Lepeli Molapo said he and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, met the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to tell them about the state witness in China.

“The PS told us that the government cannot afford to assist with transporting such a witness as they are out of funds,” Advocate Molapo said.
He said the principal secretary explained they could take advantage of the fact that people are coming back for holidays and that they will be here until January or February.
But Justice Lebotse said that he doesn’t believe the explanation that the government did not have money to bring the witnesses.

“We are talking about justice here, we cannot be told about funds being unavailable when the witness has to come to court and testify,” Justice Lebotse said.
Justice Lebotse said he is used to the accused persons saying they are out of funds, not the state. Justice delayed is justice denied, he said.
“I don’t understand and cannot take the fact that the whole state says it is out of funds,” the judge said.

“These accused persons stayed a long time awaiting trial, and want the case to proceed so that they can be clarified on what’s going on.”
Advocate Molapo requested to the court to set new dates for the case to proceed.
“We even make a firm promise that if attendance of these witnesses is not secured, the crown will close the case,” he said.

The matter was then postponed to February 17, 18 and 19 2020 for proceeding.
The state has lined up 12 witnesses for the cases.

Tang and her boyfriend Jane were shot in May 2014 by bodyguards for former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
The suspects have told the court, through their lawyer, that they felt threatened because the couple was parked too close to Lt Gen Kamoli’s gate.
They also said the couple was driving a car similar to the one they had been warned about at a parade earlier.
They claimed that their bosses had warned them that a similar car had been used by people carrying out bombings in Maseru.

Itumeleng Khoete

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