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Coup mastermind arrested

Nat Molomo

MASERU — Jessie Ramakatane, the man accused of masterminding the failed coup attempt in April 2009, was arrested in South Africa on April 24.
Ramakatane who is accused of bankrolling and organising 15 suspected mercenaries who attacked the State House and Makoanyane Barracks in the coup attempt was arrested by Interpol in Johannesburg’s Randburg suburb on Tuesday.
Although Ramakatane is wanted in Lesotho in connection with the April 2009 attacks, his arrest on April 24 was in connection with 2007 attacks on ministers’ houses.
The Sunday Express understands that Ramakatane was released on a R20 000 bail after he appeared in the Randburg magistrate’s court on April 26.
His extradition hearing starts on June 4 in Bethlehem where he owns a farm and has been staying since he fled from Lesotho in 2007.
During the hearing at the Randburg magistrate’s court Ramakatane was told that he was wanted in Lesotho for his alleged role in the 2007 post-election disturbances.
He is wanted together with two other men, Lefa Ramantsoe and Thabiso Mahase, with whom he is said to have planned the attacks.
The trio faces 19 charges that include attempted murder, robbery and illegal possession of firearms.
The three men are in South Africa and are fighting attempts to have them extradited to Lesotho to face trial.
It is alleged that a group of armed men attacked the home of the now former minister Motloheloa Phooko in Lithabaneng during the late hours of June 10, 2007. They attacked two members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Private Ntaote and Private Mosebo, who had been assigned to guard the residence.
The prosecution alleges that Ntaote and Mosebo were dispossessed of two u.56 calibre rifles, 60 rounds of ammunition, a two-way portable radio (walkie-talkie) and two sim cards.
“The group held Privates Ntaote and Mosebo captive and launched a similar attack on the nearby residence of the honourable Popane Lebesa where Privates Moso and Lenatha of the LDF were on duty,” the prosecution claims.
During that attack Moso and Lenatha were dispossessed of two 5.56 calibre rifles, 60 rounds of ammunition and a walkie–talkie radio.
They also took Moso’s sim card.
When Private Lenatha offered resistance, he was struck on the left hand by an AK47, rifle “flung to the ground and kicked”.
The four soldiers were taken to Ha Matala where they were later released.
The prosecution further claims that on the evening of June 14 the same group attacked then minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s house.
Private Maqoto and Private Sebajoe, the two soldiers who had been assigned to guard the minister, were robbed of their guns and ammunition.
The men also hijacked a government vehicle from one Maanesa Moloantoa.
On June 17, the prosecution claims, the same group also hijacked a vehicle from Peace Corps.
They also ambushed a military vehicle travelling from Teyateyaneng to Maseru.
From there they also attacked soldiers who had mounted a road block along the same road and got away with two riffles and a 9 mm pistol.
The prosecution says the group also tried to kill Assistant Commissioner Dlamini Mphatšoane.
The men are also alleged to have attacked some officers who were on patrol in Maseru.
From the police officers, the group took two M16 riffles, three SP1 auto pistols and a 9 mm pistol. Ramakatane is already fighting to avoid being extradited to Lesotho to face trial for the April 22, 2009 attacks on the State House and Makoanyane Barracks.
Seven of the 15 men Ramakatane is alleged to have recruited for the operation are already facing trial in Lesotho.
The Court of Appeal recently dismissed their attempt to challenge the High Court’s jurisdiction to hear their case.
They are facing 31 charges which include murder, attempted murder, robbery, illegal possession of firearms and kidnapping.
If Ramakatane is extradited he will face almost the same charges.
But on top of those he will have to face trial for the 19 charges relating to the 2007 attacks.

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