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Frustrated judge postpones Ntsie sentencing again

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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Moorosi Tsiane

HIGH Court Judge ‘Maseforo Mahase has again been forced to postpone the case of killer photographer, Habofanoe Ntsie, to 29 November 2022.

Ntsie had been due to be sentenced on Monday for the 2004 murders of Messrs Habaka Mahao and Souru Masupha. However, this was not to be after pro deo lawyer, Raboletsi Makara, filed an application on Ntsie’s behalf, challenging his March 2022 extradition from South Africa.

Although his delaying tactics did not go down well with Justice Mahase, the judge was left with no choice but to postpone the matter to 29 November.

Ntsie contends that his extradition was illegal.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations; the Officer Commanding Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS); the LCS; Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli; the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first to seventh respondents respectively in the matter.

“We humbly pray these proceedings be stayed while the respondents (Crown) dispatch the extradition documents,” Adv Makara submitted on Monday.

“We believe those extradition proceedings were unlawful and irregular,” he added.

Crown Counsel, Lehlanako Mofilikoane, opposed the application, arguing that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain Ntsie’s application because the extradition request was granted by  South African courts.

“The extradition proceedings were heard in South Africa. This court has no jurisdiction to review proceedings which took place in that country.

“The first respondent (foreign affairs ministry) was just a diplomatic channel through which the proceedings took place. The applicant (Ntsie) also failed to cite the Minister of Law and Justice in his application as the one who applied for those extradition proceedings,” Adv Mofilikoane argued.

Ntsie’s latest delaying tactics did not go down well with Justice Mahase who said she had come prepared to hear his mitigation plea before sentencing him.

“I came prepared to continue with mitigation before we go into sentencing,” a visibly irate Justice Mahase said.

“I didn’t get the time to read the (latest) application (for a stay in proceedings) as I was only served this morning. There is no urgency on this matter.

“This person (Ntsie) has absconded for a very long time. He comes here and wants to challenge his extradition which was not done by this court.

“This court cannot review South Africa’s judgements. If we postpone this matter I will hear it in September next year,” she said.

Adv Makara then asked for an adjournment to take instructions from Ntsie.

When proceedings resumed 15 minutes later, Adv Makara told the court that Ntsie wanted his application to be heard as soon as possible.

Judge Mahase then postponed the matter to 29 November.

Ntsie’s sentencing has been pending ever since he mysteriously fled from court and sought refuge in South Africa after being found guilty of Messrs Mahao and Masupha’s murders in 2012.

During the trial, Ntsie had argued that he shot the two in self-defence. He claimed that on the fateful day the two were armed with AK-47 rifles and wanted to kill him. During his court appearance, Ntsie had also claimed to know who killed Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s son, Maile, in 2002, a murder case which has since gone cold.

However, on 9 August 2012, Justice Mahase found Ntsie guilty of double murder. He was nonetheless convicted in absentia. He could not be sentenced after he ran way.

Almost a year after his disappearance from the High Court, Ntsie was arrested while attempting to buy a car in Vereeniging near Johannesburg. He was later released on M10 000 bail by the Vereeniging Magistrate’s Court.

His deportation to Maseru finally got the greenlight and in March this year, the killer photographer was brought by heavily armed Interpol and South African Police Service (SAPS) officers travelling in more than 10 cars.  He was handed over to Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) officers from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) who were already on standby to receive him at the Maseru border.

Since then, he has tried every trick in the book to avoid being sentenced.

When he appeared before Justice Majara in September, he sought permission to get a new lawyer after he had asked his previous lawyer, Adv Haae Phoofolo to recuse himself for unclear reasons.

He failed to get another lawyer until the court appointed Adv Makara to represent him on a pro deo basis.