THE late senior soldiers, Colonel Tefo Hashatsi and Brigadier Bulane Sechele, have been posthumously implicated in the execution of the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
They were implicated by the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)’s Lance Corporal Mokete Halahala. Lance Corporal Halahala was testifying in former army commander Tlali Kamoli and others’ trial for the June 2015 murder of army commander Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Maaparankoe Mahao which kicked off before Zimbabwean Judge Charles Hungwe in the High Court on Thursday.
Lance Corporal Halahala, a state witness in the Mahao murder trial, is a member of the LDF’s Special Forces. He previously held the lowly rank of a Private and was only promoted to be Lance Corporal during Lt-Gen Kamoli’s command in August 2015. He told the court that from January to March 2014 he was deployed at the Military Intelligence with the specific task of spying on Lt-Gen Mahao who was then a Brigadier. He said the surveillance stopped after Lt-Gen Mahao became aware that he was being monitored. He did not say when or how Lt-Gen Mahao discovered that he was being monitored.
Testifying as a state witness in the Mahao murder trial on Thursday, Lance Corporal Halahala told the High Court that the late Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele were involved with other soldiers in the attacks and capture of several police stations in and around Maseru during the attempted coup.
Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele were later shot dead on 5 September 2017 after they had allegedly assassinated then army commander Lt-Gen Khoantle Motsomotso at his Ratjomose Barracks offices in Maseru.
Lance Corporal Halahala told the court that he initially received a telephone call late on the eve of the attempted coup. He said the call was from one Lieutenant Hlehlisi ordering him to report for duty at Makoanyane Barracks.
He said he was wanted there because Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele wanted him to go with them to show them Lt-Gen Mahao’s residence in Koalabata.
He said upon arrival at Makoanyane Barracks, he was taken by one Pvt Mosothoane to meet Lt Hlehlisi who later instructed him to go and show Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele where Lt-Gen Mahao resided.
“Late during the night of 29 August 2014, I got a phone call from Lt Hlehlisi telling me to report for duty,” Lance Corporal Halahala testified.
“I was collected by Pvt Mosothoane and when we got to Makoanyane, other colleagues who were part of Lt Hlehlisi’s team were already assembled. Lt Hlehlisi addressed us saying there was a plan by the police to give (Thabane’s) All Basotho Convention (ABC) youths guns to shoot youths from the various Congress parties.
“He (Hlehlisi) instructed me to go and show Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele where Brigadier Mahao’s residence was in Koalabata. He then took me to the football pitch at the barracks where a van was parked. Colonel Hashatsi came and Lt Hlehlisi introduced me as ‘that person’ (who would show them Mahao’s residence in Koalabata).
“I waited in the car with Pvt Phosholi. Later on, Brigadier Sechele came with Colonel Hashatsi. Colonel Hashatsi asked me whether I knew what I was doing there and I told him that I had been ordered to show them Brigadier Mahao’s home. I sat in front with Pvt Phosholi while Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele sat in the carrier of this single cab van we were using and we left for Koalabata,” Lance Corporal Halahala said.
He said when they were to Lt-Gen Mahao’s Koalabata residence, he told Pvt Phosholi to stop the car and then he stepped out to point out the house to Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele. He said Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele even shot a police vehicle which was leaving Lt-Gen Mahao’s home.
“When we got to the yard (of Mahao’s home), the gate was locked and Colonel Hashatsi shot at the lock. Brigadier Sechele jumped over the fence and shot the family dog inside the yard. They both then shot at the house and vehicles which were parked in the yard.
“Colonel Hashatsi then got a telephone call informing him that there was a casualty. After that he said we should go to the police headquarters.
“At the police headquarters, we found an army truck and armoured personnel carriers (APC). Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele went into the main building while we stayed in the car. I then noticed police officers seated down near a house by the gate. They wore reflectors which were covered in blood and dust. I then took out my phone and called my wife to tell her to take care as there was something happening which I did not understand. Pvt Phosholi borrowed my phone and did the same.
“After a while Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele came back and said we should go to Central Charge Office. There was also a truck and an APC parked there. They went inside and returned after a while. We then left for Pitso Ground and they did the same. It was then when I tried to switch on the radio but all local radio stations were unavailable. Only (South Africa’s) Lesedi FM was available and I heard it being said that the LDF soldiers had captured police stations in Maseru and that Brigadier Mahao was now commander of the LDF. I then went inside Pitso Ground where Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele were still inside. I saw police officers seated on the bench. That is when I realised that Pitso Ground had also been captured and controlled by the army. I went back to the car and told Pvt Phosholi.
“Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele returned and we left for the Police Special Operations Unit in Ha Mabote. Again, there was an army truck and an APC and a similar routine of going inside the station was performed by Colonel Hashatsi and Brigadier Sechele. The same occurred at Mabote Police Station.
“We then drove to the hill near the parliament building where we met with Lt Hlehlisi and other members of the team. All these things happened until about lunch time on 30 August 2014,” Lance Corporal Halahala told the court.
Although his testimony was about the 30 August 2014 attempted coup, Lance Corporal Halahala provided it to illustrate to the court when and why Lt-Gen Mahao became a subject of interest leading to his murder by soldiers on 25 June 2015.
In the treason and murder trial stemming from the attempted coup, Lt-Gen Kamoli is charged alongside politicians Mothetjoa Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane as well as fellow soldiers, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Privates Motsieloa Leutsoa and Motloheloa Ntsane. The treason and murder trial will begin on Friday and Lance Corporal Halahala will also still testify in that trial.
In the Mahao murder trial, Lt-Gen Kamoli is charged alongside Captain Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.
The nine are accused of murdering Lt-Gen Mahao in Mokema, Maseru. They are also accused of the attempted murder of Lt-Gen Mahao’s nephews, Mahao Mahao and Mabilikoe Leuta, by shooting inside a vehicle in which they were passengers.
They are accused of damaging Lt-Gen Mahao’s vehicle, a white Nissan half-truck, by firing at it with an automatic rifle.
Lt-Gen Kamoli is also accused of the theft of Lt-Gen Mahao’s 9mm pistol and Samsung Galaxy mobile phone.