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Mercenaries promised M1m to kill PM

Nat Molomo

MASERU — Mercenaries who attacked Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on April 22, 2009 had been promised M1 million each to do the job, the High Court heard last week.
Simon Mnguini, 34, a Mozambican national who has now turned state witness, told the High Court that the late Makotoko ‘Mashai’ Lerotholi and a Mosotho businessman Jessie Ramakatane were behind the failed plot to assassinate Mosisili.
Mnguini told Justice Thamsanqa Nomngcongo on Friday how he was recruited by Ramakatane to be part of the group that attempted to kill Mosisili.
Mnguini was testifying in a case in which eight people are accused of launching an audacious attack on Makoanyane military barracks and State House on April 22, 2009.
The suspects are facing charges of kidnapping, murder and attempted murder.
Among the accused are Mozambican nationals Solomon Mabasa and Antonio Lopez who were arrested in Lesotho in the aftermath of the failed attack.
The others are Rocky Masinga, Fransisca Mandlate, Mangani Malenge, Angelo Mondlani, George Thomas, and Abel Nhantsave who were arrested after they fled to South Africa.
The other member of the group, Alberto Makwakwa, died in prison in April last year.
Mnguini said at a meeting in Soweto, South Africa, Ramakatane boasted that he was a millionaire who could make them rich.
He said he also told them that he had a friend in Lesotho “who needed to remove someone from a position because he did not get that position through the right procedures”.
Ramakatane then told them he wanted to recruit about 30 former soldiers to do the job.
“He said he would pay us no less than M1 million each if we agreed to add to the numbers,” Mnguini said.
“When I asked him why he would pay us such a huge amount of money Jessie said this operation involves the government of Lesotho, the royal family as well as some of the ANC members in parliament.”
Mnguni said they later agreed to join the operation and were then introduced to a man he later knew as General Mashai Lerotholi.
He said a few days before the attack they were taken to a farm in Bethlehem where they were briefed about the mission in Lesotho.
Mnguni told the court that Lerotholi produced two papers with sketch maps from his jacket.
“We went through the first map which was a layout of a military camp. It showed the entrance, soccer field, hospital and dormitories, club and parking lot,” he said.
The second map showed the house of a person called ‘Mosi’, a reference to Mosisili.
There was an entrance, a guardroom, a round garden and the main house.
“Lerotholi told us that when we arrive at the military camp we would find three or four guards in the guardroom and next to it we would find another three to four who would have to be disarmed,” Mnguni said.
Mnguni, who was being led in his evidence by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Leaba Thetsane KC, told the court that Mashai or Lerotholi, introduced himself as ‘General’.
He said the man told them he had worked in the Lesotho Defence Force for 30 years.
“The man was light in complexion and was about 45-55 years and of medium size,” he said.
Three days before staging the attacks in Maseru, Mnguni said they drove to a farm in Walkerville where they found between nine and 12 men already there.
Mnguni said one of the men told him they had been at the farm for three weeks.
The man must have been a Mozambican judging by his accent, he said. He also spoke Shangaan.
“When we arrived on Sunday April 19 between 10 and 11am Jessie (Ramakatane) came to us and told us that it was a traditional healer’s place and we need to be cleansed before embarking on our operation,” Mnguni said.
On April 20, 2009 Lerotholi brought them camouflage uniforms.
The trial continues on April 10.

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