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Accomplice turned witness accused of lying

 

Mohalenyane Phakela

DEFENCE lawyers in the murder trial of 10 soldiers accused of killing three civilians and dumping their bodies in Mohale Dam in 2017 have accused accomplice turned witness, Tsietsi Monyeke, of lying.

The lawyers launched a broadside at  Major Monyeke while cross examining him last week.

Major Monyeke had told the High Court in March this year that his former boss at the Military Intelligence (MI), Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, had ordered the soldiers to kill the trio.

Brigadier Mphaki is accused alongside Major Pitso Ramoepane, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Private Nthatakane Motanyane, Motšoane Machai, Tieho Tikiso, Liphapang Sefako and Nemase Faso.

They allegedly strangled Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela and Khothatso Makibinyane to death at Setibing in rural Maseru on 16 May 2017 and dumped their bodies in the Mohale Dam.

The soldiers allegedly kidnapped and murdered the three men after they had just been released from police custody. They had been detained in connection with a shooting incident at the Maseru border gate on 13 May 2017.

A soldier, Private Seliane, and Moeketsi Makhabane, a street vendor, were shot dead at the Maseru border post. Another soldier, Private Nkonyama sustained injuries and was rushed to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital. He survived.

Six men, including the now deceased Messrs Noko, Pakela and Makibinyane, were arrested and detained at Pitso Ground Police Station in connection with the shooting incident. The three had been arrested together with Motlatsi Rantaoane (alias Teboho Mathota), Molise Motaung and Tello Thoi.

And this week, Brigadier Mphaki’s lawyer, Letuka Molati, was the first to accuse Major Monyeke of lying.

“I put it to you that you never discussed with accused number one (Mphaki) to kill anyone and that neither was he there when the deceased were allegedly killed. You did not even see anybody throw the deceased into Mohale Dam and no one reported to you that they had thrown anyone into the dam,” Advocate Molati contended.

“You are falsely accusing accused number one of things he did not commit. He is going to say that he never spoke to you about any of the suspects being killed. There was never a meeting in which the killing of these people was planned.

“You are not telling this court the truth as you did in habeas corpus on 20 September 2017 yet you knew very well that the bodies of the three were thrown into Mohale Dam. You were unable to tell the court where the bodies were yet you knew,” Adv Molati said.

While Major Monyeke conceded that he had lied during the habeas corpus about the location of the bodies, he however, insisted that Brigadier Mphaki and the co-accused had committed the murders.

He said Brigadier Mphaki had confided in him that the three civilians had been killed and their bodies thrown into Mohale Dam.

“There was a meeting in which Brigadier Mphaki ordered the suspects to be eliminated,” Major Monyeke told the court.

He told the court in March 2022 that he was assigned by the army to assist the police to investigate the shooting incident.

Major Monyeke said he worked closely with Senior Inspector Mpheheletse Khatleli who was head of Criminal Investigations at Pitso Ground Police Station at the time, and a junior soldier, one Private Liphoso.

Major Monyeke said when he reported to Brigadier Mphaki that their investigations had shown that only one of the six suspects were linked to the crime, he ignored this and instead ordered them to kill all suspects to make them “pay”.

He also told the court that on 20 May 2017, Captain Moeletsi had told him that the three suspects had been strangled to death.

Four months later in September 2017, Brigadier Mphaki also told him that the bodies of the murdered suspects had been thrown into Mohale Dam, he said.

Major Monyeke has accused Brigadier Mphaki and other high-ranking Lesotho Defence Force officials of planning the murder of the three civilians during a meeting at the Defence Ministry Headquarters in March 2017.

Another defence lawyer, Karabo Mohau, accused Major Monyeke of lying about the army’s plans to murder the trio.

Advocate Mohau said some of the people whom Major Monyeke had claimed were part of the meeting were not in the country at the time.

He said Captain Makara and Lieutenant Phusumane were attending a military course in South Africa from 8 May to 9 June 2017.

Major Monyeke’s cross examination by other defence lawyers who include Attorney Qhalehang Letsika, and Advocate Napo Mafaesa continues tomorrow.

 

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