PM’s son off the hook

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Inquest absolves Mosisili of manslaughter

 

MASERU — Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s son has escaped a possible manslaughter charge after an unusual inquest concluded he had not been “negligent” when he knocked down a pedestrian two years ago.

Phakiso Saleoe died from a “severe head injury” after he was knocked down by a car which Rethabile Godfrey Mosisili, the prime minister’s son, was driving on October 11 2008.

The accident happened near the Pioneer Road/Kofi Annan Road intersection in Maseru.

Rethabile — who is the deputy principal secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation — could have faced a charge of either negligent driving or culpable homicide, lawyers told the Lesotho Times this week.

However, in a curious move, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on March 2 this year ordered an inquest into the death of Saleoe.

Magistrate ‘Makampong Mokhoro, who presided over the inquest on April 14, said the inquest had been ordered because the court understood “statements of the witnesses could not assist the crown counsel to prosecute”.

An inquest is normally held into sudden and unexplained deaths.

It is a judicial investigation, which includes a medical examination by a coroner, into the cause of death that was sudden, violent or suspicious.

An inquest uses witnesses, but suspects cannot defend themselves.

A local lawyer who preferred anonymity said it was therefore an unusual move for the DPP to order an inquest into the death of Saleoe when it was already established he had died after being knocked down by a vehicle.

The inquest concluded that Saleoe had died after a “collision” which was not due to a “criminal act”.

“The deceased Phakiso Saleoe died of severe head injury that resulted in intra-crania bleeding following a collision with vehicle H0062, but this was not due to any criminal act, culpable or negligent conduct of the driver of the said vehicle H0062, Rethabile Godfrey Mosisili,” the court concluded.

 

At the start of the inquest, the magistrate appeared to express her reservations about the inquest but still proceeded to preside over the case.

“I should, from the onset, state that an inquest is normally held where the deceased is not known so as to establish identity; to determine place of death, to determine time of death; and to determine how the deceased came by his death,” Mokhoro notes in her findings.

“In the present inquest all the above factors are known but the court has been informed that the statements of the witnesses could not assist the crown counsel’s decision to prosecute as they did not establish any negligence on the part of the driver of H0062 and they were referred for oral evidence with the belief that they may shed more light.”

The witnesses – including a police officer whose name was only given as Mapefane – were cross-examined by Rethabile’s lawyer, Advocate Salemane Phafane.

The other witnesses were Saleoe’s relative Nkonono Saleoe and Teboho Khotso, a security guard on duty near the accident scene.

“(Mapefane) and (Khotso) are the two main witnesses who assisted the court about the place where the deceased died (sic) and about the estimated time of his death,” the findings say.

“These two witnesses also assisted the court by giving evidence that the deceased in crossing the road at a place which was not only a demarcated pedestrian crossing but was also a blind curve contributed solely to his death.”

Rethabile told the inquest he had tried to avoid hitting the deceased by applying “dead” brakes but failed because he was already too close to him when he noticed him.

“(Rethabile) told the court that he did all in his power to avoid the collision but that he could not as when he noticed the deceased he was very close to him and then he applied dead breaks (sic),” Mokhoro says in her findings.

The speed at which Rethabile was driving at the time of the accident could not be established.

“(The police officer) was not in a position to make a determination of the speed at which the driver of vehicle H0062 was driving and the motor accident report form which she prepared and was admitted in evidence as exhibit ‘A’ confirms the evidence of (Rethabile), the driver, that when the collision between his vehicle and the pedestrian took place he had just left the traffic lights and had not gained any meaningful speed regard being to the fact that he was driving a diesel bakkie which, the court was told, gains speed much slower,” Mokhoro says.

The magistrate concluded that there was no “criminal act, culpable or negligent conduct” on the part of Rethabile in the death of Saleoe.

Mokhoro has forwarded her opinion to the DPP in terms of Section 18 of Inquest Proclamation No 37 of 1934.

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