MASERU — A Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) candidate was detained and interrogated by the army for hours after he had unknowingly driven into a military post on Tuesday night.
Teboho Motšeleli, the LCD candidate for Berea constituency, and his colleague Tšepang Thamae were going to a campaign meeting in Ha-Mafaesa when they lost their way and drove into a military sentry near Lancer’s Gap.
For that mistake they were detained at Makoanyane Barracks and interrogated while their legs were in chains.
Motšeleli said they were detained from 8pm to 2am and subjected to a “traumatising interrogation”.
During the interrogation they were not allowed to go to the toilet, Motšeleli said.
By the time their ordeal was over they had been thoroughly interrogated by three groups of soldiers.
Motšeleli, who was driving, said he realised they were lost when they came to “what looked like a gate”.
“I spotted some lights from a distance and then suddenly heard Thamae saying we had driven into a dangerous place,” Motšeleli said.
Motšeleli got out of the car and went towards the lights with his hands raised to show that he was not armed.
At that moment he saw two soldiers coming towards the car with their guns pointed at him.
“Their guns were pointing in our direction and Thamae was also directed to come out of the car”.
They were asked what they were doing at the sentry but the soldiers would not believe them when they said they were lost.
Motšeleli said one of the soldiers ordered them to lie on the ground but they refused.
“He (the soldier) then started poking me with a big stick.”
They were then told that they had been “grounded” and would have to wait for a car to take them to Makoanyane Barracks for interrogation.
While they waited to be taken to the barracks their car was thoroughly searched.
After about an hour a military vehicle came and they were ordered to lead the way to Makoanyane Barracks.
The soldiers said they should go via Tšenola because they wanted to pick up their commanding officer.
“We were told that we could even be lucky enough to go free if it pleased him and was convinced by our explanation.”
Motšeleli said when they picked the commanding officer he tried to explain what had happened but he said they should proceed to the barracks “because his superiors were eagerly waiting for us”.
He said upon arrival at the barracks they were joined in their car by two soldiers who had just been dropped off by a military van that was full of heavily armed soldiers.
“I knew then that we were in serious trouble,” Motšeleli recalled.
They then left the barracks and went through the Makoanyane Primary School gate where they were taken to a room.
There they found a group of soldiers who said they had been waiting for them.
Motšeleli said as they entered the room one of the soldiers asked them what had taken them so long.
“He said they had been waiting for us because they had been told that there were some people who were coming to get a good beating”.
In the centre of the room was a large table surrounded by LDF officers.
Motšeleli and Thamae were made to sit on two chairs on one side of the table.
Then the grilling started.
First, they were asked what they were doing at the sentry.
“We were asked if we were also going to campaign in the barracks and at the sentry.
“We denied it.
“We were then asked what jobs we had done before joining politics.”
Motšeleli said he told the soldiers that he had been working at one embassy and Thamae said that he had been a security guard.
He said as soon as Thamae said he had been a security guard the soldiers shifted their focus to him.
“They asked whether he had ever used a gun and what kind.”
When Thamae mentioned that he had used a pump action rifle one of the soldiers went out of the room and brought some chains.
They were chained to each other and ordered to bring their campaign materials from the car.
“It was such a pain,” Motšeleli explained.
“When nature called we were not allowed to go to the toilet.
“I am a sickly person and I could feel that I was losing it”.
After a few hours another group of soldiers came and continued interrogating them.
They were asked the same questions over and over again.
Their situation however improved during the third interrogation session which was conducted by military intelligence officers.
“They (military intelligence officers) were so professional and ready to listen.
“It was only then that we were at last given a chance to go to the toilet.”
After lengthy questioning they were released at around 2am but were warned that should anything “surface” they would be summoned.
Kekeletso Rantšo, the LCD’s secretary general and LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing said they went to Makoanyane Barracks to look for the two men but were told that they had already been released.
The LDF’s spokesperson, Captain Ntlele Ntoi, said he had heard about the incident over the radio.
“The LDF guards reacted accordingly and professionally and they assessed the situation before taking any drastic measures which could have had dire consequences on the part of the trespassers,” Ntoi said.
He also said “it was the duty of the responsible officers to interview the alleged trespassers and what is interesting is that in the end both parties parted ways without any doubts lingering”.
Motšeleli said although he is disappointed he is not going to sue the army for his ordeal.
“The best compensation I am expecting from them is their fingers (votes).”