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Metsing, Kamoli, Mochoboroane charged with treason

Mohalenyane Phakela

FORMER Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing has been charged with treason along with former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, and former Communications, Science and Technology Minister Selibe Mochoboroane.

As first reported by the Sunday Express’ sister publication, the Lesotho Times, the treason charge against the trio and another soldier, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, is in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

LCD Leader Motetjoa Metsing

Yesterday, Mr Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party, issued a statement condemning the treason charge as a “trumped-up case intended to instil fear, the reign of terror and to intimidate LCD, especially its leader (Mr Metsing) who has become the vanguard in resolving the political problems that have beset our country”.

According to the charge sheet filed in the High Court last week, Messrs Metsing and Mochoboroane, Lt-Gen Kamoli and Captain Nyakane are accused of treason and they could appear in court on Tuesday.

“The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP Hlalefang Motinyane), who as such prosecutes for and on behalf of His Majesty the King, presents and informs the court that the accused are guilty of contravening section 74 (1) read with sections 26, 74 (2)(a), 74 (4), 109(1) and 109 (2) of the Penal Code Act 2010, Act No.6 of 2012 (herein referred to as the penal code) (treason),” the charge sheet states.

The treason charge follows recent revelations by the state’s Chief Prosecutor Advocate Shaun Abrahams that the state would soon press additional charges against Lt-Gen Kamoli and others in connection with “evening and morning of mayhem of 29 and 30 August 2014”.

Selibe Mochoboroane

Lt-Gen Kamoli, Captain Nyakane and two other soldiers, Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa are in remand prison awaiting trial on several other charges including the murder of Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko which occurred on 30 August 2014 when soldiers under the command of Lt-Gen Kamoli stormed the police headquarters as part of the events of the alleged coup.

During their 22 October 2019 court appearance, chief prosecutor Adv Abrahams asked Botswana judge, Justice Onkemetse Tshosa, for more time as the state wanted to prefer more charges against them and add more suspects to their case.

Adv Abrahams had told the court that he and the police were still busy compiling the charges which he said “revolved around 29 and 30 August 2014 which was an evening and morning of mayhem”.

“The facts surrounding the charges are not as simple as I had thought and it revolves around 29 and 30 August 2014 which was an evening and morning of mayhem,” Adv Abrahams told the court on 22 October 2019.

“During the previous court appearance, I indicated that the police were investigating another matter regarding the incidents of those days and I have had the opportunity to peruse the evidence collected by police. There are technical legal issues and material facts connected with it and therefore the past two weeks were not enough (to prefer the additional charges).

“However, we met with the investigating officer and gave ourselves a deadline and we promise that by the 21 January 2020 date, all will be clear regarding the said charges. We want this matter to be finalised in the interests of justice,” Adv Abrahams told the court on that day.

The High Court had even set 4 to 14 February and 9 to 20 March 2020 as the trial dates as it had been envisaged that by then the additional charges would have been preferred. However, the trial failed to begin on 4 February after Crown Counsel, Advocate Naki Nku, asked for a further deferment to 25 February 2020 to enable the state to finalise the additional charges against Lt-Gen Kamoli and others.

“We were supposed to add more charges today (Tuesday) as well add more people to the list of the accused but due to logistical problems, we are not able to proceed,” Adv Nku said, adding, “therefore we sincerely apologise”.

“In the interests of justice, we should have started the court proceedings a long time ago. We undertake to have added the charges and more accused persons by 25 February 2020 as the indictment is already being formulated as we speak.

“There are 45 new witness statements which we undertake to serve to the defence counsels by 20 February 2020,” added Adv Nku.

With the submission of the treason charge sheet in the High Court last week, it appears the state is now ready to proceed with the case on Tuesday.

The treason charge against Messrs Metsing, Mochoboroane, Lt-Gen Kamoli and Captain Nyakane has been a long time coming as the state first notified the April 2018 Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state Double Troika Summit in Luanda, Angola that “treason charges would preferred on the suspects who include some soldiers who are already in custody facing other charges”.

The state wanted to ensure that it had a water-tight case before proceeding and in 2018, the Lesotho Times obtained a confidential report prepared by a leading law firm commissioned by the office of the DPP to help in formulating the charges to be preferred against all the suspects in the 30 August 2014 attempted coup.

The report recommended that at least three cabinet ministers in the first Thabane coalition, which ruled from 2012 to 2015, and 15 Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officers should face several charges including treason for their part in the 30 August 2014 events.

The DPP’s office had requested the law firm to state whether or not there were any prosecutable offences arising from the army’s 2014 raids on various police stations which set off a chain of events culminating in Dr Thabane’s flight to South Africa that year. Dr Thabane only returned to Lesotho under heavy South African police guard.

The law firm’s report recommended that three former ministers and 15 soldiers be charged with treason, contravention of internal security regulations, murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault kidnapping or unlawful detention, robbery and malicious or unlawful damage to property, among others.

The three former ministers, according to the law firm’s report, “met with the army officers and planned and executed the operation of 29 to 30 August 2014”.

“The salient facts that led to the events of 30 August 2014 was the removal of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli on 29 August 2014 by the then Prime Minister Thabane and the appointment of the late Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao as the commander.

“This move by Dr Thabane became unpopular and was not well received by Lt-Gen Kamoli and most of the army command as well as some coalition partners in government, in particular, members of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

“In the evening of 29 August 2014, the removed army commander Lt-Gen Kamoli called an urgent meeting of senior members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) at Makoanyane Barracks (in Maseru),” the law firm states in its report.

“It was in this meeting that Lt-Gen Kamoli informed the senior LDF members that he had received intelligence that the police were going to hand over guns to some members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) which they will use to shoot and kill members of the LCD on 1 September 2014 during the LCD’s political rally to protest the prorogation of parliament.

“Lt-Gen Kamoli said the army had to intervene and stop the police from handing over guns to the ABC. There was more to this operation than what was suggested by Lt-Gen Kamoli and his LDF command,” the law firm states.

The law firm further states that Lt-Gen Kamoli’s “so-called intelligence” which was the basis of the authorisation to conduct the army operation on 29 to 30 August 2014 was unfounded, unlawful and malicious in all material aspects.

“Firstly, there was no supporting evidence or any evidence at all, to suggest that indeed there was ‘intelligence’ that members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) were going to hand over guns to ABC members to shoot and kill members of the LCD.

“The only tangible evidence is that LCD members were pained that parliament was prorogued at the time when there was a motion of no confidence against Dr Thabane. Secondly, three army officers met with three (former) cabinet ministers to plan the whole operation and justify it to the nation,” the law firm states.

The firm said it was clear that the three former ministers and the LDF command were bent on coercing the government to accept the demands of the opposition parties who desired to oust Dr Thabane from office.

“Another factor that makes the operation unlawful is the fact that during the day of the 29th of August 2014, Lt-Gen Mahao was appointed the new commander of the LDF by Dr Thabane acting in accordance with Section 145 (4) of the constitution of 1999. This means Lt-Gen Kamoli had been removed as commander of LDF and was no longer occupying the office of the commander of the LDF in the evening of 29 August 2014.

“In order to disguise and hide behind their unlawful actions, some or all of the persons committed or knowingly with intention, failed to prevent or report treasonable acts of 29 to 30 August 2014.

“When examining closely the incidents of 29 to 30 August 2014, all the requirements of high treason…were met. All persons who participated in the events of August 2014 are citizens of Lesotho who owe allegiance to the Kingdom of Lesotho….They acted with the intention to overthrow the government or coerce it by force.

“What makes matters worse is that some of the persons who participated in the conspiracy to commit the offense of treason as contemplated under Section 74 were cabinet ministers while others were high ranking LDF officials who were expected to respect and uphold the constitution of Lesotho,” the law firm states in its report.

Meanwhile, the LCD’s national executive committee (NEC) has condemned the treason charges against its leader and others.

“The LCD’s National Executive Committee noticed with greatest dismay a document in the form of an indictment whereby both the leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy Honourable Metsing and the leader of the Movement for Economic Change Honourable Mochoboroane face a charge of high treason.

“The (national executive) committee is further alarmed by the fact that this ‘indictment’, which …has already gone viral on social media platforms- and has become a common feature on different local radio stations, despite the fact that the alleged accused or suspects have not been notified of either the suspicion, investigation and the indictment itself. We must hasten to point out that high treason is the serious offence attracting capital punishment.

“This trumped-up case intended to instil fear, the reign of terror and to intimidate the LCD, especially its leader who has become the vanguard in resolving the political problems that have beset our country; the leader of the LCD has been key in the national reforms process.

“It has been a litany of sensitive secrets of government that have been deliberately leaked into social media platforms even before they reach their intended destinations or persons. Our greatest fear is that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service has decided to run amok and ride roughshod the statutes, protocols and the laws of Lesotho and they have arrogated to become law unto themselves to the extent that they rule by reign of terror thereby becoming a de facto government.

“We strongly submit that in their attempt to indict the leader of LCD, the LMPS is violating the agreement clearly stipulates that no politically motivated charges should be levelled against the political leaders during the national reforms process. The nation will recall that the LMPS is one of the state Institutions that contributed immensely in the reigning instability in Lesotho to the extent that they were included as a State institution that needs thorough reforms.

“We are shocked to learn that they are still running rampant in brazen pretence claiming that they are maintaining law and order, while they are a root cause of the problem. We appeal to the entire Basotho Nation, the international community and Lesotho’s development partners to intervene so that this behaviour does not become a national crisis,” the LCD said in its statement.

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