MASERU — Controversial cameraman Habofanoe Ntsie who is facing a possible death sentence for double murder is now on the police’s wanted list after he disappeared from court on Monday afternoon.
Ntsie disappeared before Justice ’Maseforo Mahase had finished reading her judgment in a case in which he is charged for the murder of Habaka Mahao and Souru Masupha in 2004 at Lancer’s Gap in Sehlabeng.
Justice Mahase was halfway through her judgment when the court adjourned for lunch.
Ntsie never came back after lunch.
His wife then called his lawyer Haae Phoofolo telling him that Ntsie had been rushed to Bloemfontein after he collapsed.
Phoofolo said he informed the court about his client’s sudden illness but also advised Ntsie’s wife to inform the court about her husband’s whereabouts.
Justice Mahase then issued a warrant of arrest for Ntsie and ordered his wife to appear in court tomorrow to explain her husband’s situation.
Police spokesperson Senior Inspector Kabelo Halahala confirmed that they were looking for Ntsie but was quick to warn the public against trying to arrest him.
“In as much as we are trying to locate him we advise that should the public see him, they should not attempt to arrest him themselves. Instead they should raise an alarm and the police will effect the arrest,” Halahala said.
“It is also assumed that anybody who is on the run can be violent even if they do not have a violent background. This is just a measure to avoid any unforeseen danger.”
Phoofolo said on Tuesday his office received a doctor’s note showing that Ntsie was ill.
The letter dated March 26 and signed by one Dr Mogale was delivered by Ntsie’s wife.
“According to the letter Ntsie was to be booked off from any kind of stress for two weeks as he was certified unfit due to his persistent headache that resulted from the head injuries that he has,” Phoofolo said.
“That is as far as I know. However, I have also learnt that the judge has asked Ntsie’s wife to appear before her on Friday, so as to furnish details on her husband’s whereabouts and health condition.”
Asked how the matter is going to be handled now that the court has issued a warrant of arrest, Phoofolo said his client would still be arrested if seen.
“Procedurally things being normal, he will be taken before the responsible judge and present his case. If his side is satisfactory and convincing to the judge, the warrant will be cancelled and if otherwise he will be detained.”
Phoofolo said since Monday he had not had contact with Ntsie.
If Ntsie had been convicted he would have been immediately sent to prison because murder convicts don’t get bail pending appeal.
He would have waited for the Court of Appeal session in August to appeal against the conviction.
During the trial Ntsie who claims to be an ‘international journalist’ had argued that he shot Mahao and Masupha in self-defence.
“It is not true that I shot at innocent people. I was defending myself against their attack,” he said during the trial.
He said Masupha had told him “several times” that he was going to kill him.
Ntsie said at one time he had reported to Mabote police station that the two men were trying to kill him. He also reported the threats to the police commissioner, the National State Security (NSS) and the home affairs minister.
“After reporting to the NSS, the NSS handed me a weapon, an AK 47 rifle, to defend myself apart from the one I already had.”
He said the rifle was handed to him sometime in 2003 but he could not remember when exactly it was taken away from him.
The gun was repossessed by the NSS sometime between 2005 and 2006, he said.
Ntsie told the court that on the fateful day, he was driving towards Lancers Gap when Masupha’s car suddenly pulled next to him.
“I recognised the vehicle when Souru Masupha fired a shot. He was sitting in his vehicle on the driver’s seat with the left window open.
“When he fired a shot I told my wife to jump on the back seat and hide under the seats.”
Ntsie said he pushed his wife towards the seats when Masupha fired for a second time.
“I took my gun and cocked it. A passenger in Souru’s (Masupha) car, Habaka Mahao, opened the door holding an AK 47 rifle.
“It was at this moment that I fired towards their vehicle,” Ntsie said.
“When I realised that the passenger in the car was firing some more shots, I fired a second shot,” he said.
Ntsie told Justice Mahase that when he fired the second shot he noticed that the deceased’s car was now reversing and that the car had lost control.
The car then plunged into a nearby donga, Ntsie said.
Ntsie is a controversial figure who has had a brush with the law.
In April 2010 he appeared in court to face charges of reckless and negligent driving.
The court heard Ntsie hit a car belonging to National Security Services (NSS) agent Sekake Mohale and then fled from the accident scene.
Ntsie has claimed that he knows who killed Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s son, Maile, in 2002. Maile’s murder has never been solved.