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Kamoli rewarded Mahao’s killers with promotions: witness

Mohalenyane Phakela

FORMER army commander Tlali Kamoli rewarded slain army commander Maaparankoe Mahao’s killers with promotions in the army.

This according to the testimony of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)’s Lance Corporal Mokete Halahala.

Lance Corporal Halahala said this while giving evidence in the trial of Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Kamoli and eight others for the June 2015 murder of Lt-Gen Mahao.

His co-accused are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.

Lt-Gen Kamoli also faces the charge of inciting murder, or alternatively issuing orders to commit murder and also obstructing the course of justice by failing to release the accused together to the police together with the now deceased Colonel Tefo Hashatsi and Brigadier Bulane Sechele.

Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele are said to have been part of the team that killed Lt-Gen Mahao on 25 June 2015. The two were shot dead on 5 September 2017 after they allegedly shot and killed then army commander Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo in his office at Ha Ratjomose Barracks in Maseru.

The Mahao murder trial is before Zimbabwean Judge Charles Hungwe and is scheduled to proceed on 16 June 2021.

Some of the 72 crown witnesses expected to take the stand are former Prime Ministers Pakalitha Mosisili and Thomas Thabane, former Defence and national Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi, former Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, Retired Major General Lineo Poopa, army commander Lt-Gen Mojalefa Letsoela and Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli.

Testifying in court on Friday, Lance Corporal Halahala said he and other soldiers, including the accused, were promoted by Lt-Gen Kamoli barely two months after the assassination of Lt-Gen Mahao.

“All the accused, except Seitlheko, were promoted in August 2015 by accused number 9 (Lt-Gen Kamoli) and that included myself as I was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal from the rank of Private which I had occupied from June 2006 when I passed out (graduated from military training),” Lance Corporal Halahala told the court.

He however, did not mention the ranks which the others had occupied before being promoted in August 2015.

He also narrated the events leading up to Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder in Mokema, Maseru on 25 June 2015.

He told the court that he was ferried to Mokema, close to Lt-Gen Mahao’s farm, to be on the lookout and report back to Colonel Hashatsi if Lt-Gen Mahao was at the farm. He said that Lt-Gen Mahao was among soldiers who were to be arrested on charges of mutinying against Lt-Gen Kamoli’s command.

Lt-Gen Kamoli was initially fired as army boss on 29 August 2014 by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. This led to his attempted coup against Mr Thabane the next day. His place was taken by Lt-Gen Mahao but he was restored in 2015 by Pakalitha Mosisili who had replaced Mr Thabane as premier in the aftermath of the February 2015 elections.

Lance Corporal Halahala said he had been part of the team that was dispatched to arrest Lt-Gen Mahao. He said all the accused except for Lt-Gen Kamoli were part of the team which arrested and detained 23 LDF officers. He said the arresting team was led by Colonel Hashatsi while Brigadier Sechele was in charge of the detention centre in Setibing.

He said on the morning of 25 June 2015, he and one of the accused, Corporal ‘Moleli, were taken to Mokema by Colonel Hashatsi and Capt Nyakane to await Lt-Gen Mahao’s arrival. He was to report to Colonel Hashatsi once they saw him.

“Colonel Hashatsi told us on 25 June 2015 that Mahao was to be arrested. He said I and ‘Moleli would go to Mokema where we would report if he (Mahao) went to Mokema. We were driven to Mokema by Colonel Nyakane who also showed us Mahao’s farm. We were travelling with Colonel Hashatsi who returned with Capt Nyakane after dropping us at about 9am.

“We climbed on top of a nearby hill which gave us a clear view of the farm. Mahao arrived at the farm at around 11am. ‘Moleli called Colonel Hashatsi to inform him that Mahao had arrived and Colonel Hashatsi told him that we should tell him (Hashatsi) when Mahao leaves.

“We duly did that at around 3pm. We had been told to wait by the tarred road to be collected. Ten minutes later Colonel Hashatsi called saying ‘shit had happened’, that Mahao had been shot on the arm. They eventually arrived to pick us and they were now in the company of Ramoholi. We drove back to Ha Ratjomose.

“Upon arrival we got into a room where the rest of the team was and no one was talking. Colonel Hashatsi went out and later came back to call all of us to Major (Tumo) Lekhooa’s office. We found Brigadier Sechele, Major Mochesane and Colonel Phaila in the office. Brigadier Sechele told us that Mahao had been shot and died. Colonel Hashatsi asked Capt Makara how many bullets he had used (to shoot Lt-Gen Mahao) and the response was two. Brigadier Sechele further asked him what had happened before he shot and he said while Colonel Hashatsi was passing in front of Mahao’s truck, he saw Mahao pointing a pistol towards Colonel Hashatsi,” Lance Corporal Halahala said.

Major Lekhooa was the head of the Military Intelligence at the time. He is supposed to be one of the accused but he is in exile after he fled the country in 2017.

Lance Corporal Halahala said that Brigadier Sechele then ordered Capt Makara to furnish him with a written report of what had transpired.

“On 26 June 2015 we were told that owing to the shooting of Mahao, there would not be any more arrests. The arresting operation was stopped. The (arresting) team was disbanded three days later,” Lance Corporal Halahala said.

Following his testimony, Justice Hungwe adjourned proceedings to 16 June 2021. When the trial resumes, Lance Corporal Halahala will be cross-examined by the defence lawyers.

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