Lesotho Principal Chiefs Belief in Witchcraft an ‘Extenuating Factor’ in Murder Trial

What You Need to Know: 

Advocate (Adv) Jafta Thamae, Lawyer for Khoabane Mojela, Principal Chief of Tšakholo, Tebang and Ha- Seleso who shot his cousin in May of 2020, has successfully argued in a Lesotho Court that Mojela’s intense belief in witchcraft prompted him to kill Tšenolo Letsie. 

The ruling of Mojela’s belief in witchcraft as an extenuating factor has spared him from the death penalty, which is still in place in the small landlocked nation. 

Mojela allegedly became convinced that Letsie was bewitching him and “the accused believes in witchcraft hence he believed the deceased was consulting witchdoctors in order to harm him. He is a normal human being. He was impulsive because he believed he was going to be killed through witchcraft,” claimed Thamae. 

The ruling stood despite evidence from a doctor working at the country’s Scott Hospital that Mojela was admitted in 2019 for epilepsy with symptoms of violence. The doctor claimed there was additional evidence that Mojela defaulted on taking his prescribed medication.

The Details:

Witchcraft is prevalent in Lesotho, particularly in rural areas where citizens seek out traditional healers or ‘doctors’ to aid in the healing of mental or physical ailments. Practicers of traditional medicine are also sought out on occasion to cause harm to one’s enemies or protect oneself from the negative effects of another ‘doctors’ spell. 

In the closing statements, Justice ‘Mabatsoeneng Hlaele said “following addresses in extenuation, the court made a finding that a belief in witchcraft by the accused who was raised and lived in a rural setup where people have the same belief, could talk to the issue of extenuation. The court has also found that there is lack of planning on the part of the accused. Therefore, the court rules that extenuating circumstances exist in the matter and that it is therefore prompted the court not to hang the accused but impose another sentence. The sentencing will be on 21 March 2024.”

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.


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