Kamoli’s tears for dead son
- “I was not around to welcome my son back from China, see him marry and now he’s gone,”
- incarcerated former army boss vows to one day return to be with his family.
INCARCERATED former army commander Tlali Kamoli has shared his pain of not being around to see his son return from his studies in China, get married, start a family before dying a fortnight ago.
A visibly emotional Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Kamoli poured his heart out at the funeral service of his son, Thabelo, in Ha Leqele Maseru yesterday. The 31-year-old Thabelo is said to have succumbed to asthma on 12 July 2021. He died at about midnight at the Ha Pita Hospital which is about five kilometres from Lt-Gen Kamoli’s Ha Leqele home.
Lt-Gen Kamoli, who has been detained at the Maseru Central Correctional Institution since 2017 on a litany of charges including treason, murder and attempted murder, was only able to attend the funeral after obtaining a last-minute High Court order for his temporary release. The order was granted by Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane.
Clad in a charcoal grey suit and draped in a Se-ana-marena blanket, Lt-Gen Kamoli was a pale shadow of the fire-spitting army chief who struck fear into politicians and his subordinates with his tough talk. All people, including the media, were barred by the Kamoli family from taking any pictures at the funeral service.
Addressing mourners in a subdued tone which underlined his grief, the former army chief cut a sombre figure and told mourners that news of Kabelo’s death had reduced him to tears.
The mourners, who included former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane, were told of Lt-Gen Kamoli’s pain of not being around to welcome Thabelo when the latter returned from his studies in China. The former army boss did not say what studies he had pursued or when he returned home.
He said due to his lengthy incarceration, he had also been unable to see Thabelo marry and start a family.
“It is because of God’s grace that I am able to talk to you today,” Lt-Gen Kamoli said to choruses of “amen” from mourners.
“It is God who has kept me safe. This is the first time stepping here since I went to the police and I was ferried to prison (in 2017). This place looks different now and I would have got lost if I was travelling alone.
“This boy, Thabelo, was my second son after the one who spoke before me (Atlehang). His passing has not gone down well with me. I sent him to school in China and he returned home while I was in prison. The child over there in the arms of my wife is his. Thabelo got married while I was in prison, had a child who is growing while I am still in there. Fortunately, the family still visits me in prison.
“When Atlehang and my brother came to tell me the sad news of Thabelo’s passing, I kept quiet for a few minutes. I was trying to take it all in because I last saw Thabelo on Thursday (8 July 2021). He told me that his wife and child would come to visit me when I was not going to court,” Lt-Gen Kamoli said.
He said he put on a brave face in the presence of his son and brother and even comforted them over Thabelo’s death. He however, broke down into tears after their departure.
“The news of Thabelo’s death badly affected me but I exuded the bold character of a man and comforted them.
“After they left, I retreated to my prison cell and cried bitterly like women do. I am not a weak person but I cried a lot. I could not hold back. I could not respond to the officer who asked me what was wrong for some time. I then called my colleagues whom I have been detained with to relay the sad news. They consoled me and I went back to my cell and cried some more. Tears still cascade down my cheeks when I am alone in my cell.”
Lt-Gen Kamoli said he had found solace in the Bible. He also said that God would enable him to return home soon to be permanently with his family.
“As a parent I was hurt but I was comforted by the scriptures which gave me strength. There is 2 Corinthians Chapter 1 verse 3 and 4 which says, ‘Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’.
“I thank you all for coming here to console my family. Your presence has given us strength to stand here today. I acknowledge the love and support you have shown this family. I also thank these men whom I am travelling with for the security they provided me and I still have faith in God that He will protect us when we drive back to the correctional facility.
“I will stay where I am being kept but this is the first step towards returning here. Soon the Lord will make a way for me to return and let us have hope that I will come back soon. We listen to the radio and we hear of the efforts to ensure that we return to our families. Thank you.”
Shortly after Lt-Gen Kamoli’s speech, proceedings moved to the graveyard which is about 500 metres from the family home. Under heavy guard from LCS and police Special Operations Unit personnel, Lt-Gen Kamoli did not mingle with other mourners or talk to them. He was mostly in the company of his wife throughout the proceedings. After the burial, he proceeded to his home where he spent about 30 minutes inside before being ferried back to prison.
He has been detained on various charges since 2017.
He was temporarily released to attend his son’s burial following a Friday order issued by Justice Sakoane.
Justice Sakoane ordered the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) Commissioner, Mating Nkakala, to facilitate Lt-Gen Kamoli’s release to attend the burial from 7.30am to 10.30am.
This after the chief justice had heard arguments from Lt-Gen Kamoli’s lawyer, Letuka Molati and the state counsel, one Advocate Moshoeshoe. The state had opposed the application on the grounds that Lt-Gen Kamoli was a flight risk. It had also argued that he should not be released due to the high rate of Covid-19 infections.
“The applicant in the custody of the Lesotho Correctional Service is granted leave to attend the funeral of his son on Saturday 24 July 2021 at Ha Leqele in the district of Maseru from 7.30am to 10.30am,” Justice Sakoane ruled.
“The LCS Commissioner is hereby directed to give the appropriate orders to the correctional officers to escort the applicant to attend the funeral of his son.
“The Lesotho Correctional Service shall provide escort in order to ensure the safety and security of the applicant by imposing reasonably suitable conditions to that effect. The applicant shall abide by the conditions to be imposed by the authorities. “The applicant must be returned to the Lesotho Correctional Service soon after (the burial) without fail,” Justice Sakoane ordered.
The order for Lt-Gen Kamoli’s temporary release followed the temporary release of jailed former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was also allowed to attend the funeral of his late brother last Thursday.
President Zuma has been incarcerated at Estcourt prison since handing himself over on 7 July 2021 to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of court. The prison is in his home province of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
The former president was temporarily released on compassionate leave as he was considered a short-term, low-risk inmate, the department of correctional services said in a statement. He was back in prison by that same afternoon.