Nat Molomo MASERU — The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) has asked a junior soldier, Private Theko Lerotholi, to show cause why he should not be discharged from the army for maliciously tarnishing its reputation and disrespecting lawful command. Lerotholi has been locked in a long-running ugly row with his bosses in the army dating back to 1994 when he claims he was arrested and tortured by the army for allegedly stealing some rifles from the Makoanyane Military Armoury.
In April last year he won a M150 000 civil claim against the LDF and the police for the torture that he says left him unable to perform full military duties. Earlier this year Lerotholi again sued and won a High Court order after the army wanted to send him on a gruelling patrol at Menkhoaneng in Leribe in June.
But it is the allegations Lerotholi made in an affidavit in a case in which he had applied for a sick leave on October 2, 2012 that seems to have incensed the army’s top brass. In a letter dated October 29, 2012 which was written by LDF commander Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, the army said “it is the feeling of the LDF command that it may not be in the organisation’s interests for you (Lerotholi) to remain in the force”.
It said Lerotholi was “required to show cause, if any, why you may not be discharged from service in terms of Section 31 (b) of the Lesotho Defence Force Act No 4 of 1996”.
In the strongly worded four-page letter, Lt Gen Kamoli said Lerotholi had made “unbecoming, scandalous and baseless allegations” in the affidavit in which he claimed there was a plot by LDF officers and Commander LDF to kill him. He said this was the second time that Lerotholi had made similar claims.
Lt Gen Kamoli said Lerotholi had in another civil case (CIV/APN 338/2012) alleged the LDF commander and the commanding officer “were trying to ambush” him. “That is a very serious allegation for a soldier to make against his superiors especially when then is absolutely no truth in such allegations whatsoever”.
Lt Gen Kamoli said Lerotholi had also “insulted the LDF command” by giving an impression that promotions and overseas courses in the LDF are availed to those members who are prepared to please those in authority to the detriment of their dignity”.
“Needless to stress that these serious, reckless and far-reaching allegations have the likelihood of casting an indelible and unfortunate misconception about the LDF and its command,” he said. “Your misconceived, reckless and disloyal statement about the LDF command is most likely an indication that you do not consider yourself bound by military law and ethics which demand subordinates to defer to their superiors and desist from engaging in acts that are indicative of rebellion and unwillingness to subject to lawful command and directions.” He added that what Lerotholi had done showed he “would stop at nothing in vilifying his superiors by using courts of law as an outlet for his long-held animosity and disrespect toward lawful command structures of the defence force”.
Lt Gen Kamoli said based on what had happened in recent months it was now clear that Lerotholi is “no longer a soldier who is willing to serve under the lawful command of the defence force”. He also accused Lerotholi of dishonestly using access to the courts “to unjustifiably sow seeds of deep mistrust between the judiciary, the legal profession and the LDF by making unsubstantiated allegations” against the army.
He said Lerotholi had made malicious allegations against the LDF commander over what he claimed was uttered during a military parade on August 9 2012. Lt Gen Kamoli was referring to an incident in which he was alleged to have said he had met “the ones at the helm of the justice system” ostensibly to deal with those “threatening the command and control of the army with court orders”.
He said as a result of what Lerotholi said “the LDF’s reputation ended up being seriously tarnished in the media whereby it was perceived as undermining the rule of law and the independence of the
judiciary”. “That flagrant disregard for military ethos appears to be an indication on your part that you are no longer willing to serve in the LDF,” he said.
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