Maseru, Aug.02— The High Court has on Wednesday reserved its decision in a case in which Qamo Matela is charged with the murder of his wife Mahlompho Matela, born Rethabile Mofolo and will deliver it on August 16 2023.
This was after both the prosecution and defence lawyers addressed the court in the trial within trial following leading of evidence and closure of each of their cases.
The trial within trial was held following arguments on admissibility of an admission made by the accused in relation to the death of his wife while in police custody at the Mabote Police Station. The process is intended to establish the admissibility of the admission as the defence insist that it was not made freely and voluntarily because the accused was under duress when he made it.
When addressing the court, legal representative for the prosecution Advocate Peleha Joala stated that there are contradictions in the accused’s version of what transpired at the police station. He pointed out that inconsistency and contradictions are material in determining whether one’s version is reasonably possibly true.
He said the statement made by the accused before the police was freely and voluntarily. He asked the court to find that an informal admission is admissible and thus admit the statement made by the accused.
Legal representative for the accused Adv. Lepeli Molapo argued that the prosecution should not rely on an informal admission in order to make their case. He said they should rely on investigations. He indicated that what they are doing is a trial by ambush as they never disclosed that there would be a trial within trial and the statement would be used.
He said a state of mind the accused was in when he made the statement and the surrounding circumstances should be determined by the court. He pointed out that the accused was under undue influence when he made the statement adding that the admission was not free and voluntary.
Adv. Molapo emphasised that there is no prejudice to be suffered by the prosecution if the statement is not admitted whereas the accused stands to suffer prejudice if it is admitted.
The High Court has, in the main trial, already heard evidence from Lekhooa Monaleli, accused’s friend and the deceased’s sister Rorisang Mofolo. Both witnesses related to the Court the events leading to the deceased’s death. They both testified that the deceased told them that the accused had assaulted her days prior to her death.
The accused is charged with contravention of section 40 (1) of Penal Code Act No.6 of 2010, read with section 40 (2) thereof by causing the death of the deceased on September 11, 2021.
The case attracted public interest and activism against gender-based violence since the news of the deceased’s death broke. The families of Matela and Mofolo even engaged in a legal battle over the burial of the deceased. The Mofolo family filed an application claiming a right to bury their daughter.
They argued that the deceased’s husband did not have the right to bury her as he was responsible for her death while the deceased’s husband argued that the applicants did not have a right of burial over his late wife as they were still legally married when she died.
The families ended up reaching an agreement on the burial of the deceased while the case was before the Court of Appeal. The agreement was made after the Matela family appealed against a decision of the High Court which declared Qamo unworthy to bury the corpse of his late wife.
The case is before JusticeTseliso Mokoko.