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Cops charged for Khetheng murder

 

. . . as ‘body’ of missing officer exhumed

’Marafaele Mohloboli

FOUR Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) have been charged for the murder of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng, with more arrests possible as investigations continue.

LMPS spokesperson, Inspector Mpiti Mopeli, yesterday told the Sunday Express the four would soon appear before the Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing.

He would, however, not be drawn to divulge the names of the four LMPS members, saying it would jeopardise the ongoing investigations.

PC Khetheng was last seen being arrested by Inspector Mofolo, PC Ntoane, PC ‘Mabohlokoa Makotoko and Senior Inspector Matona at a feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016.

This publication is reliably informed that Inspector Mofolo and PC Ntoana were among the LMPS members arrested in Leribe last Wednesday by a special investigating team.

The arrest and charging of two more cops comes in the wake of the exhumation by the police of the remains a man believed to be PC Khetheng on Friday. Members of PC Khetheng’s family confirmed that the partly decomposed body were his remains. However, the police will conduct a DNA test to verify his identity.

The remains were exhumed at the Lepereng cemetery in the outskirts of Maseru, which is the burial ground for unclaimed corpses. This was after the police were granted a court order by the Magistrate’s Court for the exhumation on Thursday.

The police had furnished the court with affidavits from Inspector Mofolo and PC Ntoana who had been interrogated on the matter as motivations for applying for the order.

The sombre event was attended by hundreds of Basotho, including Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, First Lady MaIsaiah Thabane and senior government officials.

PC Khetheng’s body was found buried along with three other unidentified corpses.

The tombstone was inscribed with information stipulating where the corpses were found. It stated that PC Khetheng’s body was found on 27 March 2016 in Ha Setho, Maseru – about 100 kilometres from Hlotse, Leribe where he was last seen alive on 25 March 2016.

For his part, Insp Mopeli said the four suspects were in police custody and assisting with investigations.

“Based on the information we gather, there is a possibility of the number of people arrested in connection with this matter increasing or also decreasing,” he said.

PC Khetheng’s father, Thabo Khetheng, had lodged an application before the High Court on 18 July 2016 for the LMPS to produce him dead or alive.

PC Khetheng had been arrested and charged on allegations he torched the house of his superior in Mokhotlong district where he was deployed.

In their response, the LMPS authorities had argued that PC Khetheng left the Hlotse police station without permission and they did not know where he was. The Khetheng family argued that the police should know where he was because they had arrested him.

The case had since been proceeding in the High Court, with numerous postponements. However, it was given fresh impetus with the appointment of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Holomo Molibeli as acting police commissioner last month.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli is expected to take over from Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa who is currently negotiating exit terms with the government and was sent on a forced 90-day leave by Dr Thabane.

Commissioner Letsoepa’s alleged failure to investigate PC Khetheng’s disappearance in March 2016 was among the reasons cited in a “show cause” letter from the government for why he should be dismissed.

The top cop has pleaded with Dr Thabane for an early retirement to prevent the consequent loss of benefits that come with a dismissal.

However, his fate remains uncertain given that some sections of the government want the top cop to “account” for his alleged transgressions since his appointment on 3 November 2015.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli last month formed a five-member investigative team to get to the bottom of PC Khetheng’s disappearance. The team travelled to Hlotse in Leribe on Wednesday to get a police docket on PC Khetheng’s disappearance and also arrested Inspector Mofolo and PC Ntoana whom they brought back to Police Headquarters in Maseru.

Addressing, a press conference on Thursday, Acting Commissioner Molibeli said the previous LMPS authorities’ decision to defend the case lodged by PC Khetheng’s family “defied logic”, adding that the agency should have been assisting them to locate him.

He also apologised for human rights abuses that had been perpetrated by some LMPS members, saying no one, including the police, had the right to take the law into their own hands.

“I take this opportunity to sincerely humble myself before the Basotho nation for the incidents of police brutality that have occurred,” he said.

“Basotho established the police service and not the other way round. Therefore, we would like to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the institution as this is not the kind of service that we should be rendering to the public.”

“Everyone has a right to life and even when there are suspicions that someone was involved in criminal activities, we have no right to take the law into our own hands, nor does the public have a right to take the law into its own hands through mob justice,” Acting Commissioner Molibeli said, adding that the LMPS now had an open-door policy for the public.

He admitted that the Khetheng case had been bungled by the LMPS, adding that the lawyer representing the agency in the case, King’s Counsel Motiea Teele, had been withdrawn from the matter.

“I pleaded with the court to give me a chance to investigate further on the matter,” Acting Commissioner Molibeli said.

“Since I took over, the office of Commissioner, I realised a very unfortunate trend, whereby the police had engaged a private lawyer to defend them against PC Khetheng’s family wish to find their son.”

“It failed logic that the police were being defensive on this matter, whereas in actual fact the family only wanted us to work together,” he added.

PC Makotoko was among 21 LMPS members recalled last month after being fired by Commissioner Letsoepa for various reasons. This Sunday Express has it on good authority that she is not among the LMPS members charged with murder.

She had been fired for misconduct after challenging in the High Court her transfer to Tlalinyane Police Post in Leribe district.

In her court papers, PC Makotoko claimed that after arresting PC Khetheng, they were ordered by Inspector Mofolo not to take PC Khetheng to the Hlotse holding cells.
They however took him to the same Hlotse police station where he was later driven away.

PC Makotoko said a day after the arrest, she received numerous calls from colleagues asking where PC Khetheng was. She said she became suspicious and asked Inspector Mofolo who had ordered them not to take Khetheng to Hlotse.

PC Makotoko said she did not believe her superior’s explanation and later heard rumours that Khetheng had been killed.
PC Makotoko further said she was called to the Law Office in Maseru where she was asked to lie about the arrest and disappearance of PC Khetheng, but she refused and was eventually dismissed for misconduct.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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