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Fresh headache for Letsoela

  • as soldiers file new, separate applications for a staggering M57 million

Mohalenyane Phakela

LESOTHO Defence Force (LDF) commander, Mojalefa Letsoela, has a fresh headache to deal with.

This after six soldiers filed new, separate High Court applications for damages for torture and unlawful arrests they allegedly suffered at the hands of other soldiers in 2014 and 2015.

The six are demanding a combined staggering M57 million in damages.

Lieutenant Colonel Mojalefa Mosakeng, Sergeants Selebalo Sejake and Lintle Rantuba as well as Corporal Sello Lefoka lead the way with claims for M11 million damages each.

Corporal Litšitso Mahase is demanding M7 million while Corporal Lehlohonolo Bolofo wants M6 350 000.

Save for Corporal Lefoka, the soldiers are among 16 plaintiffs who originally filed the M32 million lawsuit against Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Letsoela this June on the same grounds of torture and unlawful arrest.

However, 12 of the 16 plaintiffs, who are still serving soldiers, were subsequently suspended from the army to pave way for a Board of Inquiry to probe them for mutiny in connection with the lawsuit.

Lt-Gen Letsoela set up by the Board of Inquiry to probe what he saw as mutinous behaviour after the soldiers teamed up with their retired colleagues to sue him for the damages over their 2014 ordeal. Lt-Gen Letsoela characterises the soldiers’ decision to sue him as amounting to a mutiny.

In his 30 June 2021 “show cause” letters to each of the 12 soldiers, Lt-Gen Letsoela states that he established a Board of Inquiry “to inquire into circumstances surrounding the joint action by yourself and 15 others in the Tumelo Maja V Commander LDF and Another whereby there is a claim for damages pertaining to alleged incidents of torture and unlawful arrest”.

In his letters, Lt-Gen Letsoela says the meeting by the soldiers to discuss their lawsuit amounted to a mutiny.

Their bid to have the Board of Inquiry into their suspected mutiny deferred until the finalisation of their application for a final order setting it aside was dismissed by Judge Moroke Mokhesi on 20 July 2021. They were however, ordered to appear in court on 5 August 2021 to secure a hearing date for their main application.

This has however, failed to deter them as they have returned with fresh applications in which they escalate their damages demands to a whooping M57 million.

Lt-Gen Letsoela, Defence and National Security Minister Halebonoe Setšabi and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first to third respondents respectively in the six applications.

Lt-Col Mosakeng’s claim is broken down as follows:  M1 million for past and future medical expenses, M500 000 for contumelia, M4 million for pain, suffering and emotional shock, M5 500 000 for loss of amenities of life, loss of three fingers and permanent discomfort owing to damaged and painful hand.

“On 1 February 2015, at or near the Royal Palace and the Ministry of Education, Lt-Col Mosakeng, who was then a Major in the army at the time, and one Sergeant Majara, were attacked by a group of heavily armed soldiers led by the late soldiers, Tefo Hashatsi and Bulane Sechele. The plaintiff survived the attempted murder,” Lt-Col Mosakeng states in his court papers.

“After the attack, Lt-Col Mosakeng’s body was riddled with bullets; six bullets in the left hand and six bullets in various parts of the body, back and front. He was immediately admitted in Ladybrand Hospital and in a matter of hours transferred to Bloemfontein Pelenomi Hospital. He was subsequently transferred to Tempe – a South African military base in Bloemfontein when there were rumours that other LDF members were going to finish him off. Lt-Col Mosakeng was operated nine times in an effort to extract bullets from his body and to mend his body and the extremely damaged hand. The left hand has been supported by metal rods inserted inside the hand permanently.

“Lt-Col Mosakeng has extremely suffered, having stayed in hospital for four months and then having to recuperate in South Africa as he was forced to live in exile as a result of the attack and political situation in Lesotho. He still has to attend one last major operation.”

Corporal Bolofo is claiming M3 million for unlawful arrest and detention, M500 000 for contumelia, M1 million for pain, suffering and emotional shock, M500 000 for future medical expenses, M100 000 for malicious prosecution, M250 000 for economic loss and M100 000 for assault.

“On or around 2 July 2015, Corporal Bolofo was conducting his duties at or near Ratjomose Barracks wherein he was handcuffed, shackled and arrested by armed soldiers led by the then Sergeant Makara.

“He was transported to the office of Military Intelligence and upon his arrival he was allegedly interrogated and assaulted by being kicked and punched by the late Tefo Hashatsi. He says he was later thrown in the maximum prison where he was detained for a period of about seven months. During his detention, he was also kept in solitary confinement from October to December 2015,” Corporal Bolofo states in his court papers.

Sergeant Sejake wants M2 million for assault and torture, M500 000 for contumelia, M2 million for pain and suffering, M500 000 for unlawful arrest and detention.

“On or around 17 May 2015, at his home, Sergeant Sejake pleads that he was arrested by armed soldiers led by the late Captain Hashatsi. The plaintiff was immediately handcuffed and transported to Ratjomose Military Intelligence office. From there he was transported to Setibing Military Base.

“Upon arrival at Setibing, he was tied to a pole and interrogated. He was later hauled off to a room wherein he was tortured and assaulted in various ways including but not limited to being poured with cold water and then whipped ruthlessly. He was then asphyxiated with rubber tube which resulted in him losing consciousness several times.

“He pleads that he was thrown into a dam with his hands and feet tied to a rope which they used to pull him out of the dam. They then directed him into one of the buildings wherein he was tied to a bed and beaten with a hard object on the feet. He was detained at Setibing Military base for five days wherein he was tortured and assaulted number of LDF members. He was later taken to Ratjomose Military Intelligence Office and released.”

Corporal Lefoka’s M11 million claim includes a demand for M2 million for assault and torture, M500 000 for contumelia, M4 million for pain, suffering and emotional shock, M500 000 for unlawful arrest and detention and M2 500 000 for economic loss.

He alleges that was arrested on 31 May 2015 and ferried to Setibing Military base. He claims he was also asphyxiated and beaten while tied to a pole outside during the cold winter.

Sergeant Rantuba wants M2 million for assault and torture, M500 000 for contumelia, M4 million for pain, suffering and emotional shock, M500 000 for unlawful arrest and detention. He says he was arrested on 15 June 2015 and transported to Setibing Military Base where he was tortured by being “asphyxiated and drowned in freezing water, being hung on a pole, having his genitals pulled violently and having unidentified objects stuffed in his buttocks”.

Corporal Mahase is demanding M2 million for assault and torture, M500 000, M4 million for pain, suffering and emotional shock, M500 000 for unlawful arrest and detention. He says he was arrested on 10 June 2015 while on duty at Mokhotlong Military Base and ferried by a helicopter to Ratjomose. He says he was subsequently ferried to Setibing Military Base where he was also “asphyxiated, drowned in cold water, being hung on a pole and having a dog pull on his genitals”.

 

 

 

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