Soldiers grilled over murder, abductions
…night time was a nightmare because of soldiers, Deputy Minister says
POLICE recently quizzed five Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) soldiers in connection with the kidnapping of three men in 2017 while another soldier was questioned over the murder of the three men whose remains were last month retrieved from Mohale Dam.
The questioning follows claims by the Alliance for Democrats (AD) Treasurer for the Koro Koro Constituency, Nkuebe Marole, that he was kidnapped and tortured by some soldiers who misrepresented themselves as police officers in January 2017.
He said his kidnappers wanted information on the whereabouts of the Basotho National Party (BNP) Spokesperson and current Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Machesetsa Mofomobe and the AD Youth League President, Thuso Litjobo.
When he professed ignorance of their whereabouts, he alleged that he was bundled into a vehicle and taken to the Thetsane industrial waste water ponds in Maseru where they tortured him and accused him of being AD leader and current Deputy Prime Minister, Monyane Moleleki’s lap-dog.
Last year, Mr Litjobo told this publication that he was arrested several times and tortured by the police for his active role in exposing the highly publicised former government’s fleet services tender with South African company Bidvest Bank Limited which has cost Lesotho millions of maloti.
Mr Litjobo alleged that the-then police commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa, the now deceased army commander, Khoantle Motšomotšo, then Lesotho Correctional Service commissioner, ‘Matefo Makhaleme and then National Security Service (NSS) Director, Major General Tumo Lekhooa were victimising him because they knew that “I am telling the truth”.
“I am supposed to be a victim because I stand by the truth and they will not rest until I am dead because they know I am telling the truth,” Mr Litjobo said at the time.
“These people know that I know their deepest secrets and they are running scared that one day I will wake up and decide to tell their secrets to the whole world. This is why they are victimising me.
“Killing me will not shut up me up. It will instead bring a can of worms. I have audios in safe-keeping and once I get killed, the audios will be released for the whole world to know their secrets.”
Asked to reveal these secrets, Mr Litjobo said the timing was not right.
Besides Mr Marole, two other victims, Mohato Seleke and Lira Moeti also allege they were kidnapped and taken to a certain place at Ha Mohale but later released. They were accused of masterminding a Facebook account registered under a faceless holder called Makhaola Qalo, who is feared for unearthing the rot in the civil service.
Police Spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli recently confirmed the questioning of the six soldiers.
One of the soldiers, he said, was questioned in connection with the murder of Khothatso Makibinyane, Lekhoele Noko and Molise Pakela, whose bodies were thrown into Mohale Dam by some soldiers.
“We cannot reveal the names of the soldiers to avoid jeopardising ongoing investigations. Five of the six soldiers were questioned in relation to the kidnapping cases while one soldier assisted the police in the Mohale Dam murder case,” Supt Mopeli said
Nine soldiers, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi (43); Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi (50); Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali (32); Private Nthatakane Motanyane (24); Brigadier Rapele Mphaki (47); Motšoane Machai (39); Liphapang Sefako (48); Nemase Faso (28) and Private Tieho Tikiso (28), are currently in custody for the murder of Messrs Makibinyane, Noko and Pakela.
The trio were accused of killing a soldier and a vendor during a Maseru Border Post shoot-out that occurred on 13 May 2017. They were interrogated by the police before their release three days later on 16 May. However, while on their way home, they were abducted from their buses by some unknown gunmen before they were fatally strangled by some soldiers and their bodies dumped in the Mohale Dam.
The LDF Deputy Public Relations Officer of LDF, Colonel Mashili Mashili also confirmed that the six soldiers were questioned by the police and later released.
The alleged kidnapping incidents took place during the tenure of the former seven parties’ coalition government that was headed by Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Pakalitha Mosisili.
Dr Mosisili’s government was replaced by the four party coalition that is headed by All Basotho Convention leader, Thomas Thabane.
The previous government has been accused of condoning acts of violence, assassinations and other forms of impunity by the security sector.
Since the new administration took over last year, it has made strides in bringing suspects to book and there have been several high profile arrests including that of former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
Lt-Gen Kamoli, was arraigned in the Magistrate’s Court on 16 October 2017, charged with one count of murder and 14 counts of attempted murder.
The murder charge is for the fatal shooting of police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko during the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane.
A number of soldiers, under Lt-Gen Kamoli’s command, had stormed various police stations and seized arms they claimed were to be used against civilians at a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) rally that same weekend. However, Dr Thabane’s government charged that Lt-Gen Kamoli launched his coup attempt in reaction to his dismissal by the Prime Minister a day earlier.
Three other army officers namely, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane (38), Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane (34) and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa (31) are charged with Lt-Gen Kamoli in the murder of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko. The three are in detention with Lt-Gen Kamoli at the Maseru Maximum Prison.
The 14 attempted murder charges stem from the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesaiah Thabane, one ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane, and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana.
Lt-Gen Kamoli remains in custody after his bail application was turned down on the grounds that there no special circumstances to warrant his release.
Last night, Deputy Minister, Mr Mofomobe told this publication that he was tipped by internal LDF sources that some soldiers wanted him dead.
“Night time was a nightmare because I knew the (army) cabal was active during night time. I was not sure whether they would spare my family if they decided to come for me. It was a terrible experience I would not wish anyone to go through, including my enemies,” Mr Mofomobe said.
“We managed to also compile reports on the evidence we were gathering, and we were aware who wanted to kill us and for what. We also knew who were the most dangerous soldiers tasked to deal with certain people such that when I was arrested the first time and met some of them, I prayed to God for protection. Some of these soldiers are now in custody as suspects in the murder of Ntate Mahao and the three men whose remains were retrieved from Mohale Dam,” Mr Mofomobe said.
He further explained that what was painful was that all people who were hunted down, shot and killed and injured during the period of the instability were champions of truth, democracy and good governance.
“In my case, I became a wanted man because I championed good governance because the system then had strayed from the path of democracy, tolerance, human rights and the rule of law.”
He further stated that his family and many others have not recovered from their traumatic experiences.
“Many people have not been able to sleep well since the August 2014 attempted coup which marked a sinister turning point for Lesotho. Some people lost a brother, a sister, a husband, wife, a neighbour, a friend. One cannot even imagine the level of the trauma they are still going through and some no longer trust anyone.
“For this reason I believe that when we talk about justice, peace building and creating a stable political and security environment through reforms, we must be serious because a lot of people paid a heavy price for taking a stand against evil,” Mr Mofomobe said.
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