Attorney quizzes top soldier

Attorney quizzes top soldier

MASERU – A prosecutor in the Court Martial, Attorney Koili Ndebele, says Major Pitso Ramoepane must explain why he delayed to seek the High Court’s permission to appeal its judgment.
Major Ramoepane together with six other soldiers are being charged with mutiny that resulted in the assassination of army commander Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo in September 2017.

Attorney Ndebele insists Major Ramoepane must be in the dock in both the Court Martial and the High Court.
Major Ramoepane is facing a murder charge in the High Court.
Lieutenant General Motšomotšo was gunned down after Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi confronted him in his office for allegedly handing over soldiers who were wanted by the police.

An attempt by Major Ramoepane to stop his prosecution in the Court Martial failed. He argued that he would be compelled to use the same defence in the murder case which is before the High Court.
The Court Martial dismissed his application to stay prosecution pending the High Court trial or stop the trial altogether.

In April this year, High Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi dismissed his application to reverse the Court Martial’s decision to prosecute him.
Major Ramoepane has now appealed Justice Monaphathi’s decision in the Court of Appeal and his case is likely to be heard in the October session.
He however did so without first applying to the High Court to seek permission to appeal. It took him six months to do so.

In papers filed in court, Attorney Ndebele said Major Ramoepane should explain why it took him that long to file an appeal in the Court of Appeal.
“He must establish good cause . . . In this regard he must explain his failure to act timeously,” Attorney Ndebele said.
“He must show that such failure was not wilful,” he said.
Major Ramoepane, through his lawyer Advocate Karabo Mohau KC, said “the delay was not wilful but arose out of inadvertence that only came to light upon receipt of the respondents answering affidavits in the application for stay of execution”.

Attorney Ndebele said this explanation was not convincing.
The decision will hinge on why Major Ramoepane delayed to apply for condonation to file his application.
His explanation must convince the judge that he had no other option but to delay.

Otherwise he will find himself before the Court Martial where he fears that he will expose his defence in the murder case.
Both his charges of murder and mutiny carry the death penalty.
Attorney Ndebele said it is common cause that Justice Monaphathi’s judgment was delivered on April 24 but since that time Major Ramoepane “never showed any intention to appeal and seek leave thereof”.
“There is no explanation for the lapse of almost six months,” he said.
He argued that instead of filing an application in the High Court for leave to appeal, Major Ramoepane filed an appeal directly without leave and that has not been withdrawn.

Quoting section 8(1) of the Court of Appeal rules, Attorney Ndebele said: “Any party to an appeal to the High Court may appeal to the court against the High Court judgement with the leave of the judge of the court on any ground of appeal which involves a question of law but not on a question of fact nor against severity of sentence.”

He said Major Ramoepane must establish the grounds of appeal that involve a question of law and not fact, and that he has prospects of success on appeal.
Major Ramoepane wants the Court Martial’s decision to prosecute him to be reviewed, corrected and set aside for lack of jurisdiction.

Itumeleng Khoete


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