Top army officers brought to court in leg irons
…Wives break down as Brigadier Poqa Motoa and Major Chere Makhetha are brought to the High Court amid tight security
Brigadier Poqa Motoa and Major Chere Makhetha of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) were on Friday brought to the High Court under tight security following their arrest on 29 May 2015.
The officers were brought before the court after their wives had filed applications seeking orders directing the LDF Commander and Director of the LDF’s Military Intelligence (MI) to reveal their whereabouts. The wives had claimed the LDF had kidnapped their husbands. It was not mentioned in court why the two officers had been arrested.
However, when the detained soldiers arrived in court, they were in leg-irons and walking slowly as if in pain. Heavily armed LDF members were in attendance, which drew curious members of the public to the court.
When Brigadier Motoa arrived with his feet shackled, and surrounded by heavily armed soldiers, his wife ‘Mampelo could not prevent tears from rolling down her chicks as she watched her husband slowly moving from a 4×4 army van towards the entrance of the High Court building.
Brigadier Motoa was walking some few steps behind Major Makhetha who was being escorted from an army Quantum minibus.
Major Makhetha was also shackled as the two senior soldiers entered Court Room Number Five.
Once in court, Brigadier Motoa’s lawyer, Advocate Patrick Tšenoli, requested presiding judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa, to ask his client his state of health.
In response, Brigadier Motoa told the judge he bled through the nose on Thursday a day after he was “suffocated” by his captors.
Brigadier Motoa continued: “My hands are still swollen and my feet are a bit numb.
“I was also bleeding from the nose yesterday (Thursday) after they used a tube to cover my face the previous day.
“They tied-up my hands from the back as they covered my face with a tube.
“I have never been afforded an opportunity to see the doctor since I was arrested and detained.”
Asked if he would like to consult a doctor, Brigadier Motoa said not only did he require medical attention, he also needed to have access to his lawyer.
The Brigadier further told Justice Moiloa that his relatives, who included his wife ‘Mampelo, children, sister ‘Matiisetso Motoa and his in-laws, should also be allowed to visit him while in detention.
Justice Moiloa then ordered that Brigadier Motoa should be allowed to go for medical examination and treatment, noting: “The following orders are to operate with immediate effect: The respondents are ordered to permit Brigadier Motoa to have access to close members of his family; They will have access to see him during working hours between 10am and 3pm for a period not exceeding one-and-a-half hours; This should be done within the earshot and eyesight of the respondents’ officers; He should be afforded access to his medical doctor for private examination and this should be done out of the earshot of the respondents’ officers, but within the eyesight of the officers.
“I also direct with immediate effect that Brigadier Motoa be given access to legal representation out of earshot of the respondents’ officers, but within the eyesight of the respondents’ officers for purposes of consultation and taking instructions.
“The respondents are also restrained from assaulting Brigadier Motoa while still in detention pending finalisation of the determination of this application.”
Brigadier Motoa’s co-detainee, Major Makhetha, also told the court that some parts of his body were painful.
Both Brigadier Motoa and Major Makhetha did not elaborate on the cause of the pain and bruises on their body.
But their wives, in papers before the court, alleged they might have been assaulted by their detainers.
Major Makhetha said: “My hands cannot hold anything properly. I also feel some pain within my chest. I have terrible pain where my arm joins the shoulder and I cannot stand for a long time because of the pain in my feet.”
However, Major Makhetha told the court that he was taken for medical attention at Makoanyane Military Hospital on Wednesday by the LDF members.
Major Makhetha further said he saw his wife on Wednesday when he was taken to Makoanyane hospital.
This was in response to Justice Moiloa’s inquiry whether he had seen his wife since his arrest.
“I saw her at the hospital about three days ago, but I have two daughters I last saw on 29 May (2015) before I went to witness the arrival of His Majesty the King at Moshoeshoe I International Airport. I last saw them at around six in the morning,” he said.
Justice Moiloa then made a similar ruling he had passed on Brigadier Motoa, and also ordered the main cases for both officers to be heard on 23 June 2015.
In those cases, the detained soldiers’ wives want the court to order the release of their husbands, arguing their continued detention by the LDF was unlawful.
Meanwhile, it was a scene to behold once again outside the court as the two senior army officers walked to the LDF vehicles.
With heavily armed soldiers around them, Brigadier Motoa’s wife broke into tears as she watched her husband getting into the army vehicle still shackled.
The two vehicles then drove off the High Court premises, leaving the many onlookers speechless.