Members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) faced-off once again on Friday morning in Maseru as the turf war between the security agencies continued.
The standoff took place at the Constitution/Lerotholi roads junction and Lesotho National Broadcasting Services (LNBS) entrance along Lerotholi road.
According to sources who spoke to the Sunday Express , there was gunfire at around 4am near Maseru Central Police Charge Office, prompting the police to seek assistance from the Southern African Development Community Observers who arrived in Lesotho last month to monitor the country’s political and security situation, ahead of the reopening of Parliament on 17 October 2014 and general election in February 2015.
“When the police heard the gunshots, they called for assistance from the SADC people who came immediately, only to find out that all was quiet around the area.
“However, the police then tried to secure the roads near the police station and Royal Palace nearby, by putting yellow crime-scene tape at the corner of Constitution/Lerotholi roads in order to carry out further investigations later. This was to ensure the area was not disturbed and crucial evidence about who could have been involved in the shooting, was not tampered with.
“The heavily armed police also put the yellow tape at the LNBS gate, which however, did not go down well with the soldiers guarding the premises.
“The police officers realised that the soldiers were starting to position themselves and readying for an attack, and continued putting on the tape, while pointing the rifles in the direction of the LDF members, one of whom had climbed onto the roof of one of the LNBS buildings with a machinegun, which he was now also pointing at the police.
“However, while this standoff continued, an army truck loaded with heavily armed soldiers arrived at the scene, and the police removed their tape from the LNBS gate and also along the road, and left,” said the source.
When the Sunday Express crew arrived at the LNBS premises at around 9am, there was an army truck full of heavily armed soldiers at the scene. Other soldiers could also be seen moving around the LNBS premises.
Repeated attempts on Friday and yesterday to verify the source’s account of the alleged standoff were fruitless.
While LDF spokesperson Major Ntele Ntoi was not answering his mobile phone both yesterday and on Friday, LMPS spokesperson Lebona Mohloboli on Friday first said he was not aware of the standoff and gunfire and would try to find out what could have happened. Senior Inspector Mohloboli had advised the Sunday Express to phone him “later”, but sounded irritated when called again on Friday and told this reporter not to put him under pressure about the issue.
Yesterday, Senior Inspector Mohloboli’s phone rang unanswered.
The Sunday Express contacted the LNBS Acting Director General, Motlatsi Monyane on Friday about the alleged blockade of the broadcaster’s premises.
Mr Monyane said: “We were given a short briefing of the situation by the army this morning when we arrived here at the office.
“The army said due to the current political situation in the country, the police have been cordoning-off some streets to restrict movement at night and that somehow affected the LDF’s operations as they had even closed streets that the soldiers needed access to last night”.
Mr Monyane said one of the restricted streets included Lerotholi and Constitution roads.
“Unfortunately these streets are home to government departments that are guarded by soldiers. We were told that during a shift-change by the soldiers, they needed to gain access but the area had been closed, so that’s when some conflict came up,” Mr Monyane said.
“This morning, the streets were once again, cordoned-off to allow what looked like an investigation by the SADC Observers.
“The SADC Mission, we have been told, wanted to find out what really transpired in the early morning hours. That is the explanation we were given during the briefing by the army,” Mr Monyane said.
Meanwhile, attempts to get a comment from the SADC observers were also not successful.
LDF and LMPS members have been at loggerheads since the army command refused to cooperate with police investigations into the bombing of three Maseru homes on 27 January this year.
The police have since requested to interview eight LDF members in connection with the bombings, but to no avail.
The LDF attack of three key Maseru police stations on 30 August this year, allegedly in an operation to confiscate arms some LMPS wanted to give to some civilians to cause chaos at a street protest scheduled for Maseru on 1 September, only worsened the situation.