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Army boss fires junior soldier

MASERU — Army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, has fired a junior soldier who has been locked in a court battle with the army.
Lt Gen Kamoli dismissed Private Theko Lerotholi over damning allegations he made in his affidavit for a case in which he was seeking a High Court order to block the army from hauling him before a military court.
Lerotholi’s lawyer Mole Khumalo confirmed that his client had been fired.
He said he had been told that Lerotholi had not been called to a disciplinary hearing before being discharged.
Khumalo said his client was going to challenge the decision because it is unprecedented for a soldier to be discharged over statements made in court papers.
“Our view is that if the commander is unhappy with what has been said in court papers then he can use the same court to seek redress,” Khumalo said.
“The army’s decision is premature because the case is still before the High Court.”
Since 1994 Lerotholi has been embroiled in an ugly row with the army.
In 2011 Lerotholi was awarded M150 000 in damages after he successfully sued the army for torture.
He alleged that the army had brutally tortured him in 1994 after accusing him of stealing rifles from Makoanyane Barracks.
He claimed that as a result of the torture he had been unable to perform full military duties. Earlier this year Lerotholi again sued and won a High Court order after the army wanted to send him on a patrol at Menkhoaneng in Leribe in June.
But it is the allegations Lerotholi made in an affidavit in a case filed after he was denied a sick leave on October 2, 2012 that seems to have triggered Lt Gen Kamoli’s decision to fire him.
In an October 29 letter Kamoli said Lerotholi had made “unbecoming, scandalous and baseless allegations” in the affidavit in which he claimed there was a plot by Kamoli and his officers to kill him.
“Needless to stress that these serious, reckless and far-reaching allegations have the likelihood of casting an indelible and unfortunate misconception about the LDF (Lesotho Defence Force) and its command, he said.
“Your misconceived, reckless and disloyal statement about the LDF command is most likely an indication that you do not consider yourself bound by military law and ethics which demand subordinates to defer to their superiors and desist from engaging in acts that are indicative of rebellion and unwillingness to subject to lawful command and directions.”
The commander added that what Lerotholi had done showed he “would stop at nothing in vilifying his superiors by using courts of law as an outlet for his long-held animosity and disrespect toward lawful command structures of the defence force”.
He said Lerotholi should “show cause, if any, why you may not be discharged from service in terms of Section 31 (b) of the Lesotho Defence Force Act No 4 of 1996”.
Lerotholi responded to the kamoli’s letter through his lawyer Khumalo.
Khumalo said the LDF’s move to discharge their client on the basis of affidavits that are still before the courts “smacks of total disregard and disrespect for the courts of Lesotho”.
“These extracts therefore form evidence which still has to be determined by that Honourable Court . . . We therefore wish to inform you that it is not proper to intend to dismiss our client basing yourself on the extracts of the evidence which is still subject to being proved or otherwise by the courts of law which are already seized with the matter,” he said.
He said Lt Gen Kamoli’s decision to dismiss their client was also premature.
“Furthermore they (acts) seem to show total disrespect for the rule of law and the supreme law of this country which guarantees equality before the law,” he said.
They said their client “categorically denies that he uses the courts of law to vilify his superiors as a result of his long held animosity and disrespect towards command structures of the defence force”.
“We accordingly advice (sic) your good office to desist from effecting your intended dismissal of our client from employ, as such action would be tantamount to total disrespect of the rule of law and the basic human rights.”
But despite Khumalo’s contention Lt Gen Kamoli proceeded to dismiss Lerotholi, a move that had set the stage for what is likely to be yet another gruelling battle in the High Court.

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