Killer cop escapes jail sentence

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MASERU — When the three police officers arrived at Pampu Skundla’s humble home in Mohale’s Hoek they found him already asleep.

Also sleeping in the one-roomed house in Setotoma village, about 10km from Mohale’s Hoek, were Skundla’s wife and children.

It was Skundla’s wife who opened the door for the police officers.

Skundla, 47, the man the police officers had come to arrest, lay naked in his bed.

The officers ordered Skundla out of bed and told him that he was under arrest.

One of the police officers, only identified as Fusi, then handcuffed Skundla’s hand and told him to wear his trousers with the other hand.

But just as he was pulling the trousers up his legs a bullet ripped through his body.

Matebele Pinda, one of the police officers, had fired the shot that would later turn out to be fatal.

Now bleeding profusely, Skundla then staggered towards Pinda who held him and laid him on the floor.

The officers immediately left the scene.

Skundla was rushed to Nts’ekhe Government Hospital where he later died as frantic efforts were being made to take him to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru.

The incident happened on November 2, 2002 but in recent months his family has had to relieve that horrendous moment during the trial of Pinda who was being charged over Skundla’s death.

Fusi, who later became a state witness, told the court during the trial that he had warned Pinda not to shoot because he could harm the children sleeping in the room.

He said by the time he looked back at Skundla he saw that he was bleeding from the buttocks and that is when he knew that Pinda had just shot him.

It emerged during the trial that hours before the fatal incident Pinda had had an altercation with Skundla while they were at a feast in the same village.

Pinda, the court heard, had managed to disarm Skundla of his pistol and took it to the police station.

When Pinda, Fusa and another police officer went to Skundla’s house later that night they wanted him to explain where he got the gun and to produce a valid licence for it.

But as fate would have it Skundla never got the chance to explain the status of his gun because he was fatally shot by Pinda. 

On Monday, after waiting for eight years for justice to be done, Skundla’s family watched as High Court judge Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane sentenced Pinda to five years in prison or a M5 000 fine for culpable homicide.

“The accused as a police officer should be a protector of life not a destroyer. The loss of human life cannot be underestimated,” Justice Chaka-Makhooane told Pinda, who looked crestfallen in the dock as the sentence was being delivered.

Justice Chaka-Makhooane said the court must always show its disapproval at the wanton way “in which human life is lost based on flimsiest reasons”.

“People use old reasons to engage in acts that eventually cause the death of others.

“Such acts must never go unpunished if we want to restore confidence in the justice system,” the judge said.

The judge however suspended two years of Pinda’s sentence on condition that he does not commit a similar offence within the next two years. 

On Monday afternoon Pinda walked out of court a free man after he paid M3 000, the equivalent of the three years he was supposed to spend in jail had he not opted to pay the fine.

The judge said the eight years that Pinda had spent worrying about his fate had “served as some form of punishment”.

“This factor must certainly count in his favour, the opinion of the court is that the accused had no premeditated intention of killing the deceased,” she said.

Advocate Molise Molise appeared for the defendant while Advocate Limpho Makholela prosecuted.

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