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Lead prosecutor bows out

Mohloai Mpesi

The Lead Crown, Shaun Abrahams has made an official withdrawal from three high-profile criminal cases which had the country on its knees for years.

Abrahams is party of a team of judicial officers who were engaged by Lesotho from outside the country in an attempt to speed up prosecution of some cases referred to as high-profile because of their sensitivity as they involve some big names in the country. Foreign judges and prosecutor had to be engaged after it had become apparent that should they continue with local officers; other parties might feel hard-done as there seemed to be a general perception that judges would be conflicted in their administration of justice.

Abrahams attached three copies of notice of motion on Monday to the court seeking to be granted approval of withdrawal as Crown Counsel in the matter where the former Army Commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli was incarcerated for attempted murder and malicious damage of property for bombing three homes including the former first lady, Maesiah Thabane at Moshoeshoe II in January 2014.

Kamoli is charged alongside Major Pitso Ramoepane, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Sergeant Heqoa Malefane.

The resignation could see another murder case in which the late former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao delaying. In the matter, Kamoli is also accused alongside Sargent Lekhooa Moepi, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Sargent Motsamai Fako, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi, Captain Haleo Makara and Captain Litekanyo Nyakane.

The other case is a murder case wherein Police Constable, Mokalekale Khetheng was murdered and four people have been locked up viz: Sub-Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo, Deputy Commanding Officer Thabo Tšukulu, Superintendent Mabitle Matona and Sub-Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane. The matter which was on its trial stage had four witnesses testifying before the court this year.    

In the affidavit filed by the outgoing prosecutor, he mentioned that he was forced by professional reasons to withdraw from his duties. Abrahams told the court that the deliberations leading to the decision was considered after a lengthy period with unresolved matters that seem not to find resolution anytime soon, thus, leaving him with no alternative but to withdraw.

“I do hereby make oath and state that, I am an adult male of full legal capacity and a citizen of the Republic of South Africa. I am the Lead Crown Counsel in the matter of R v Tšukulu and three Others, Lesotho High Court, CRI/T/00010/2018 duly appointed by the Director of Public Prosecutions in terms of section 6 (2) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act No. 9 of 1981 (‘the CP&E Act’).

“I am the Applicant herein as per the relief sought in the Notice of Motion.  I attest hereto solely in application to this Honourable Court to withdraw as Crown Counsel in R v Tšukulu & 3 Others, Lesotho High Court, CRI/T/00010/2018 with immediate effect. 

“Over the last year the Director of Public Prosecutions and I have attempted to resolve administrative and professional differences, which have remained unresolved despite numerous attempts at finding an amicable resolution thereto. 

“This resulted in me writing to the Director of Public Prosecutions on 18 August 2021 giving timeous notice of my intention to withdraw as Crown Counsel in all matters on brief, including CRI/T/0010/2018, with immediate effect on or about 1 September 2021. 

“As a result, on September 2, 2021 I filed a Notice of Withdrawal as Crown Counsel in casu in line with the provisions of the Superior Courts Practice Direction No. 2 of 2021, a copy of which is attached for ease of reference,” he said.  

“At the time of filing of the aforementioned Notice I was unaware of the Superior Courts Practice Direction No. 4 of 2021.  

“Had I known, I most certainly would have filed an application for my withdrawal as Crown Counsel in compliance with the provisions of the Superior Courts Practice Direction No. 4 of 2021. 

“Notwithstanding, I respectfully submit that I had taken the requisite measures to timeously provide notice to the Director of Public Prosecutions of my intention to withdraw with immediate effect on or about September 1, 2021. I further respectfully submit that I have at all times demonstrated the requisite good cause in this matter to this Honourable Court,” he said.  

He continued that, “For professional reasons, I can as a result in good conscience no longer proceed with the brief as Lead Crown Counsel in CRI/T/0010/2018. It is consequently prayed that this Honourable Court grant the relief as prayed for in the Notice of Motion, by:  Granting me leave to withdraw as Crown Counsel in the matter of R v Tšukulu and three others, Lesotho High Court, CRI/T/00010/2018; and, condoning the late filing hereof in non-compliance with the provisions of section 4(a) of the Superior Courts Practice Direction No. 4 of 2021.  

“I wrote to the Director of Public Prosecution on or about August 18, 2021. I must mention that there were many deliberations made prior and to over many months which we made in our papers in which I have given ultimate notice of my intentions to withdraw from all matters on or about September 1, 2021.

“In conclusion, it is unequivocal that my commitment to these matters to date has been unquestionable, mindful of my ethical obligations and duties from the DPP’s office and the witnesses in these matters and ultimately the administration of Justice which I have always held dearly and I will continue to do,” he said.

However, all the lawyers in the defence counsel had no objection except advocate Kabelo Mohau who lamented. Advocate Abrahams could have furnished all counsels with notice of motion to spare him the time he took preparing for the case which ultimately caused injury to his right eye.

“I have spent the whole of last night trying to prepare for this case, had I been forewarned of these developments, I would not have undertaken the effort that I took last night which has coursed me a strain to my right eye, I had to see an optometrist this morning,” he said.

“I am saying these mindful of the fact that my learned friend some other time took me to task for not giving notice,” he continued.

However, Justice Hungwe granted an official withdrawal for Abrahams citing that

“I have perused the electronic notice of withdrawal by the Head Counsel, advocate Abrahams. In terms of the agreed Directives Number Four 2021, this court should be given at least fourteen days.

The DPP Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane told the court that she will return with an answer pertaining to Abrahams’ future as the state Counsel. She told the court that she hopes the unresolved matters meet their resolution to reinstate the Lead Crown to his position.           

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