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LDF soldiers to spend Xmas in SA jail

  • allege torture by their SA counterparts

’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE nightmare continues for two Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officers who have been languishing in a South African prison since their arrest in the neighbouring country five months ago.

This after the Matatiele Magistrates’ Court on Thursday denied them bail and ordered that they stand trial on 15 January 2021. This means that the duo, Privates Rorisang Moepi and Dumile Tsoanyane, will spend Christmas behind bars.

They were arrested in Matatiele, Eastern Cape on 19 July 2020 by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) after they allegedly pursued South African rustlers who had allegedly stolen livestock in Lesotho.

They were detained on charges of illegally entering the neighbouring country, stock theft, robbery and possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

The South African court had initially reserved judgement to 25 September 2020 after the soldiers’ lawyers had made their submissions in their bail application on 15 September 2020.

But there was no joy for the soldiers on that day with LDF spokesperson Captain Kelebone Mothibi telling the Sunday Express that the presiding magistrate said he was not persuaded that the duo would return to South Africa for the continuation of their case if they were released on bail.

The magistrate therefore decided to postpone the matter to 28 October 2020 to allow the accused’s lawyers to make further submissions.

Again, on that day, the lawyers were unsuccessful in their application. They continued to pursue the matter and on Thursday, the Matatiele Magistrates’ Court made a final decision to deny them bail and ordered that they remain behind bars awaiting trial on 15 January 2021.

In an interview with the Sunday Express, acting LDF spokesperson, Captain Sakeng Lekola, said they were yet to study the judgement to understand why the bail application had been denied.

“We are yet to study the judgment and only then will be able to map the way forward now that they have been denied bail.

“We believed that we had reasoned enough with the court for it to grant our application for bail. One of the arguments we raised is that one of the detainees has lost a parent. We also argued that they had been tortured and needed to receive medical attention.

“We also cited the cordial relations between the LDF and SANDF as well as the cordial relations between the Lesotho Mounted Police Service and the South African Police Service as grounds for freeing them on bail.”

Privates Moepi and Tsoanyane remain in detention despite high level government talks to secure their release. Back in September this year, Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu led a government delegation for talks with South African government officials aimed at securing their release. Their efforts failed to yield the desired results.

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro is also on record saying he is “pained” by the prolonged detention of the duo.

“We are pained by the fact that our fellow countrymen have not been released up to now,” Dr Majoro said on local radio in September.

He said the soldiers should not have been arrested in the first place because they were carrying out normal duties in terms of the joint operations by the two countries’ security agencies to combat stock theft.

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