The high profile murder case involving former Mupane mine employees, Arnold Masango and Raymond Leshomo, came to a thundering conclusion last week when Francistown High Court Judge Moses Chinhengo sentenced the two to death for the May 2006 murder of fellow employee, Mark Lottering.
The case resumed recently after a year long hiatus during which the first accused, Leshomo, refused representation from a number of local pro-deo lawyers, insisting that the state appoints renowned South African advocate Peter Hodes to represent him.
He would later grudgingly accept the services of Edward Mosate of Mosate Attorneys in Gaborone. The prosecution later called 28 witnesses to the dock, also using Leshomo’s confession statements, recorded by former District Commissioner Sylvia Muzila and Chief Magistrate Peter Mensah Acheampong.
It emerged during the course of the case that Masango and Leshomo hatched a plan to kill Lottering after a series of misunderstandings between the deceased and Leshomo. After knocking off on the fateful Friday morning, Leshomo later snuck back into the mine in Masango’s Land Cruiser, without using his access card. The duo would later ambush Lottering and beat him to death with a jack winder. Lottering’s cell phone, bank cards and driver’s licence were later found at Leshomo’s house. The two had previously tried to pin the blame on each other with Masango insisting that he was an innocent bystander in the murder while Leshomo maintained that he murdered Lottering after prodding from Masango whom he regarded as his mentor and superior.
Lottering’s May 2006 murder was described by the Francistown police as the most gruesome in the history of Francistown. But last week justice Chinhengo brought the matter to a close when he sentenced the two to death for the grisly murder of Lottering.
During mitigation, Leshomo’s defense lawyer Mosate pleaded with the judge to be lenient as Leshomo had only murdered Lottering after incessant prodding from Masango. He also said that Leshomo had not premeditated the murder as he had only committed the offence after pressure from his mentor and superior.
Mosate also pleaded with the court to take into consideration the fact that Leshomo was only 21 when he committed the offence in 2006.
Masango’s defense counsel, Bengbame Sechele, also argued that Masango committed the murder after provocation from Lottering. He also argued Masango had committed the murder at age 29, while he was still a youth.
But Chief State Prosecutor Antoinette Kula argued that youthfulness is not an issue in a murder case, as the state can charge an 18 year old with murder.
“What would make a 21 year old not be charged with murder? Youthfulness should be overlooked in this case.
Furthermore, there are no extenuating factors in this case,” she said.
Justice Chinhengo agreed with Kula, dismissing the defense’s mitigation arguments and maintaining that he could not find any extenuating factors to reduce the blameworthiness of the accused, as both men had premeditated the murder well in advance. He further said that the accused participated fully and jointly in murdering Lottering, as the offence was committed for a common purpose. Chinhengo indicated that the matter was further aggravated by the fact that the deceased was killed in a gruesome manner.
“There can be nothing painful than being killed by people who you look upon as colleagues,” remarked the judge.
He slapped both men with a death sentence indicating that there were no extenuating factors to reduce the blameworthiness of the matter.
In a related matter Masango is facing another murder charge in connection with the death of his girlfriend, who was allegedly poisoned in 2007. In an act that sparked public outcry and protest, Justice Thomas Masuku granted Masango bail in August of the same year. But he would later lose his freedom after being arrested in connection with the murder of his girlfriend, Masaitsiweng Dintweng, who was a teacher at Ramoja CJSS. At the time she was waiting to be drafted into the Botswana Defense Force as part of the first cadres of women recruits.