A SOUTH African judge is set to preside over a case in which 18 detained soldiers want army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli jailed for contempt of court.
High Court Assistant Registrar, Staford Sharite yesterday confirmed the development, although he would not be drawn into revealing the judge’s identity.
“A judge has been identified from South Africa to preside over the case. However, I cannot disclose his or her name at the moment.
“The case will now be heard on the 21st January,” he said.
The foreign judge’s services were sought after High Court judge, Justice Molefi Makara, recused himself citing a collapsed relationship between him and some of the lawyers involved in the case.
Twenty three soldiers were initially arrested between May and June this year for suspected mutiny and detained at Maseru Maximum Security Prison.
However, five soldiers, namely Brigadier Thoriso Mareka, Lance-Corporal Mohasi, Corporal Mohatlane, Lance-Corporal Jobo and Corporal Montšuoe Motseko have since been released and placed under open arrest after the High Court ruled their continued detention was illegal.
Brigadier Poqa Motoa, Colonel Stemere, Colonel Kolisang, Major Makhetha, Captain Chaka, Sergeant Mokhobo, Sergeant Semakale, Sergeant Lekhabunyane, Corporal Mokhoro, Corporal Letsilane, Corporal Lipoto, Corporal Manaka, Corporal Chele, Lance Corporal Molefi, Lance-Corporal Makhooane, Private Pama, Private Bolofo and Private Ralitlemo remain in Maseru Maximum Security Prison.
On 5 October 2015, Justice Makara ruled the soldier’s detention was illegal and ordered their release and placement on open arrest.
But despite the order, the soldiers remained in prison, prompting their contempt application on 2 November 2015.
The case was supposed to be argued before Justice Makara on 20 November 2015, but Lt-Gen Kamoli’s lawyer, Advocate Motiea Teele (King’s Counsel), informed the judge that the commander wanted him off the case for fear of bias.
The lawyer argued Justice Makara was likely to be biased against Lt-Gen Kamoli after the judge expressed anger, in chambers, over criticism leveled against him over a local radio station. The criticism concerned the judgment Justice Makara had made in the soldiers’ first contempt application.
Justice Makara on 16 October 2015 ruled that Lt-Gen Kamoli was not in contempt for not releasing the soldiers despite his 5 October 2015 ordering him to do so. The judge noted Lt-Gen Kamoli might not have clearly understood the order hence his failure to release them.
It was this decision which was criticised on radio, with the criticism prompting the judge to summon crown and defence lawyers to his chambers.
On 1 December 2015, Justice Makara told a packed courtroom he was taking himself off the case not because of what had been alleged in an affidavit supporting the recusal application, but the “collapsed” relationship between him and some of the lawyers involved in the case.