The late Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng’s trial seems nowhere near its dawn as a result of unending new issues that keep coming up thus deterring the beginning of trial.
From sick lawyers, to pro deo counsel withdrawing from trial, to the accused refusing counsel and now to the latest being last-minute recusal application on the presiding judge, it seems drama will be order of the day in the matter even before trial commences.
The court proceedings that were intended to kick-start last week had to be postponed to this week’s Wednesday due to the unavailability of the accused lawyers; Advocate Zwelakhe Mda who claimed the instability of his diabetes triggered his absence. Mda represents Mothibeli Mofolo, Mabitle Matona and Haleokoe Taasoane.
Advocate Kabelo Mohau who was representing the first accused, Thabo Tšukulu pro deo, re-joined the defence counsel after deserting the crew with assertions that he was not yet paid a consultation fee after the indictment, now returns with new tricks, blaming the dimming lights which he said were damaging to his eyes and he had to “strain and squint” to look at the papers.
He told the court that after he jumped ship, Tšukulu’s wife approached him privately and asked him to return to the case under new arrangements.
The suspects are charged alongside former Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa.
The Crown is represented by advocate Shaun Abrahams and Nnaki Nku in the case before Justice Charles Hungwe.
Last week the accused were provided with another state lawyer after their representatives were unable to show up. Advocate Thulo Hoeane was roped in to advocate for the accused but they declined him claiming they only knew Mda as their initial representative, not Hoeane and that they would not be represented by any other lawyer except Mda. He was told to be present during the trials as a watching who would take the case when the trio’s lawyer, Mda doesn’t turn up. However, Mda did show up yesterday.
Khetheng was allegedly murdered by his colleagues following his March 2016 arrest at Sebothoane in Leribe during a traditional ceremony and was apparently slain the same year. His body was exhumed in 2017 at the Lepereng mass-grave for unidentified corpses.
More concerns were raised this week by the accused through their lawyers that they were “brutally tortured” by the police, bullied and psychologically abused.
Mda said the suspects further cried foul that advocate Abrahams whispered daunting words while he was not supposed to talk to them.
“Your lawyers are wasting your time and gambling with your lives,” he said those were the words they claim were whispered by Abrahams at the end of last week’s hearing where they did not have a representative, it is alleged Abrahams whispered these words to the accused while in their docks awaiting to be taken away. Thus, they felt bullied in the court of law.
“Besides them feeling abused in the court, the accused say that they were asked to plead in the court of law without the presence of their representatives,” Mda said.
It was further declared by Advocate Mda that on April 27 in his absence during the trial at the court due to poor health, his clients were not treated fairly in court.
Meanwhile, during the court proceedings, advocate Mohau said the lighting in the court room was hurting to his eyes, “I am squinting and straining my eyes, I am already using tinted glasses, I suggest the lights be fixed or we move to another court room,” Mohau said squinting.
Mda agreed with Mohau in terms of the lighting in the courtroom and later handed out and read a document that he claims Abrahams and his team together with the Directorate on Public Prosecution (DPP) refused to accept from him.
Mda also filed fresh application in behalf of his clients, for the recusal of Justice Hungwe on the grounds that he was being impartial in his dealings with the accused as if he has already judged them even before the commencement of trail. He said his clients feel that at this rate they doubt his ability to deliver for them a fair and just trail.
The matter was pushed to May 10, 2021 when Hungwe will decide on it and deliver his judgement the following day.