MASERU — On April 22 a group of bandits stormed the Makoanyane Barrack, hijacked two army vehicles and stole guns which they used to launch an attack on the State House.
They wanted to abduct Prime Minister Pakalitha. Apart from the fact that most of the bandits were hired mercenaries mostly from Mozambique and South Africa little is known about the people behind this ill-fated mission which left four of them killed and a dozen arrested.
This week the Sunday Express managed to get a document which contains a confession from one of the bandits. The confession is being used as evidence in a South African court where the other mercenaries are standing trial.
The confession sheds some light on the mission and how it was planned. It is the closest that a local newspaper had gotten to knowing the inside detail of this mission.
Below is a full version of the confession carried here with some minor editing where some of the statements were completely difficult to understand:
On Saturday before the Election Day 2009-04-18 a friend of mine by the name of Themba took me to a traditional healer in Soweto. I don’t recall her name. The reason was that I wanted to sell dagga and that the lady had the connections. We visited the lady by taxi.
During our conversation the lady told me about this man who had a job. She phoned him to come and explain the kind of job. After about 45 minutes he arrived with a light brown Range Rover with registration number PFX 162GP. He came alone. He introduced himself as Jesse. He is big and tall and fat and his left or right leg seems to be injured. He spoke to me in Zulu and changed to Sotho.
He told me that he needed people that were ex-soldiers. I told him that I have never been a soldier before. He said that he needed about thirty people.
After a while he told me that the nature of the job was that the member of the Royal Family in Lesotho wanted to take out another guy who was in fact running Lesotho. His name contains something like Musi. The guy from the Royal family allegedly was someone from the defence force in Lesotho who trained the soldiers for a long time.
Jesse told me that everything was arranged in Lesotho and that he needs to make up numbers although I was not trained. He furthermore told me that he got soldiers within the Lesotho Defence Force already waiting for action. Part of his mobilisation was taxi owners, taxi drivers and civilians.
He further told me that they didn’t want to mobilise before the assistance of the soldiers that he was trying to recruit. The ex-soldiers will be supported by the groups mentioned because of the following reasons;
1. Musi has got his own buses and takes all the money so that the taxi industry suffers.
2. The soldiers are working without guns and they are underpaid.
3. Out of the R39 million being paid by the South African government as levy on the water project, money is paid by him to the political party COPE. If people complain about the money, they are being kidnapped and killed by his soldiers.
Jessy said that we will be paid not less than a million each because it involves government officials and wanted soldiers from Mozambique, Lesotho and the province of Limpopo. Thereafter we went to Walkerville to a plot — Jesse, myself, Pinto and Rocky.
When we arrived at the plot there was a white Isuzu double cab with an orange construction light at the top. Punch Line Construction was written on both sides of the LDV. There was also a 3.5 litre Canter Truck. There were steels on the back and I can not recall the colour of the truck clearly. The vehicles were standing in front of this white double storey brick house.
Jessy got out of the light brown Ranger Rover and an unknown male from the Isuzu got out as well to meet each other half way. I could not hear what they discussed. This other guy was dark in complexion and gold capped front teeth. After the discussion Jessy returned to the double cab and the other guy to the Isuzu bakkie. We then left with Jessy.He dropped us at South Gate Mall. Before I left, I wrote down the information (cellphone and telefax number) that was on the placard that was on the side of the construction vehicle.
After we were dropped at the mall, myself, Pinto and Rocky went to our respective homes. I arranged with a friend to come pick us up to take us to Katlehong Township.
A meeting with Jessy was scheduled for the following day at the mall where we were dropped.
The following day on 2009-04-19, at about between 07:00 and 09:00 I, Rocky and Pinto met Jessy in South Gate Mall, Johannesburg.
Fhineas, a friend of mine picked us up and took us to the mall. Fhineas, was not part of the planning, he just assisted us with transport to the mall and then he left.
Jessy arrived and he was alone. From here we went to Walkerville at the plot where we were the previous day.
At the plot inside the yard I saw a lot of men who moved to the back of the house and later appeared with blankets in plastic bags.
They were about fourteen or fifteen men. Some of the men I recognised as Mozambicans. One of them approached me for a cigarette and introduced himself as a Mozambican.
The group was together for about three weeks at the plot. He asked me where I worked as a soldier before and I replied that I never was a soldier. During the discussion we were interrupted by Jessy who said that we were leaving. This was 9:00 or 10:00am.
All the blankets were packed at the back of the white Isuzu construction vehicle. The logos that I mentioned earlier were still on the sides of the Isuzu. The men came out with a sheep and they put it inside the back of the Canter where after they got on the back of the same vehicle. We left and the only people that stayed behind were an unknown old man and a juvenile.
From the plot we were driving in three vehicles, the Canter, the construction Isuzu and Range Rover in which myself. Pinto and Rocky were passengers. Jessy was driving the vehicle.
At this point and time I did not know where we were going. Jessy had four cellphones. Jessy led the way, the Canter followed and then the construction Isuzu.
After a while we entered De Deur and stopped at a plot where everybody got off the vehicles to relax. At the plot Jessy came to me, Pinto and Rocky. He told us that this was the traditional healer’s place and that we should be cleansed here and that we will leave from here on the following Monday 2009-04-20. He then told us that he previously went to Lesotho with only six men and that they did not accomplish their mission. During this time Jesse’s group of six approached Lesotho Police within Lesotho where they were able to disarm and rob policemen of their firearms without any resistance.
These firearms were smuggled into the RSA by Tshepo and the other group of six. He informed us that Tshepo was later arrested by the South African Police and was serving a four-year-sentence for the fire-arms. The same healer then helped them but he resided in Kwazulu-Natal at that time.
Before Jesse left the plot he called me and instructed me to get into the Range Rover. Jesse asked me for my passport which I gave him. I told him that the passport had expired. Jesse enquired about my personal details and my family which I gave to him. He then left with my passport.
During the day we were cleansed by the traditional healer and that night we slept at the plot.
The next morning Monday 2009-04-20 another grey Isuzu Double cab arrived with a AF or AC 491 Lesotho registration number. The driver, a black man, was alone in the vehicle and he was unknown to me. Jesse arrived with another sheep and ordered it to be slaughtered. He was accompanied by another unknown male from Tembisa who joined us.
Another unknown man that was driving a Black Toyota Auris visited the plot on Sunday and left and returned again on the Monday morning.
He called me and spoke to me in private. He did not introduce himself. During his address he cautioned me not to speak about this whole thing because it involved the South-African government and that I could speak to someone that is involved as well and get myself into trouble. He left after this discussion.
Everybody was called into the house by a man who said he trained the Lesotho Defence Force for thirty years.
He asked some of the people if they still got the uniforms of the previous encounter.
In the room were three bags from which the speaker took soldiers camouflage uniforms and distributed to the people that they must fit.
He said shortages must be reported. Those who received everything must tie them into a bundle and write their names on it. Thereafter they were placed into the bags again.
Between 14:00 and 15:00 we were informed by Jesse that we were leaving. Everybody got into the Canter. Four vehicles left De Deur.
It was the Canter driven by Spiriano, suspected to be a Mozambican living in Lesotho, the white Isuzu construction vehicle was driven by Jeff and Solly, the grey Isuzu double cab was driven by the unknown man from Lesotho and the Range Rover was driven by Jesse accompanied by Steve.
We stopped at Bethlehem at a garage to refuel the Canter with diesel and divided the blankets amongst the people received from Jesse.
We also covered the back of the Canter with a canvas. We left Bethlehem between 19:00 and 20:00.
The other cars had already left. The first stop from the garage was suspected to be at Jesse’s farm where I saw construction vehicles.
Not far from that we stopped under a large roof. We were instructed to get off the vehicle and bring everything that was on the vehicle.
Jesse arrived in a black Fiat bakkie.
We were then instructed to get into the bakkies and gather wood before we reached a one room house where a plastic bag was unloaded from the construction Isuzu driven by Jeff.
The bag was carried into the house and left there by “General”. The men were given the choice either to sleep in the house or outside by the fire. I chose to sleep outside by the fire.
The next morning the “General”, the unknown man from Lesotho instructed us to clean the weapons that emerged from the plastic bag.
In the bag were four or five AK47’s, five to six R4 or R5 riffles, one pump action shotgun, one semi- automatic shotgun with a reel and a 9mm Pito Berretta pistol. We were asked if we could dismantle and clean the firearms.
One Mozambican who could only speak Portuguese said he could do the job and after that he chose three or four of the others to do the job.
Before he dismantled one AK47, he requested the rest of us to leave. I saw that the magazines were separated from the firearms, which they were loaded. I saw a red plastic container with six shotgun cartridges.
Those that were cleaning the fire-arms got into the room while the others were standing outside. The men that were cleaning the fire-arms were given cans of lubricant.
“General” called us together and showed us two drawn maps that showed scenes of property that was situated within Lesotho.
Entrance points to the properties were shown on the maps. He told us that the first map was the layout of the soldiers’ camp and the second map was the house of Musi.
The plan was that when we arrive at
the soldiers’ camp, the “General” himself and Steve will go to the guard room and disarm the three soldiers. If successful we will proceed and pass two dormitories on the left and right-hand side and target two buildings where the firearms are kept.
On the far left side there was a place where they kept firearms and it is guarded by three or four soldiers.
Five from our group will go to that place and another five to the place opposite where fire-arms are stored as well. The rest of the group will go to where the officers sleep.
The information given by “General” was that only one person held the key to the vault where the dangerous weapons are kept. This key rotates from person to person. This person will be traced through interrogation.
The “General” himself was responsible for the execution of this operation.
After acquiring weapons we were to go to the parking area where we would take armed vehicles. Spiriano was interpreting in Portuguese what the “General” was saying and Steve and Solly were confirming.
After success was achieved in seizing the armed vehicles, we would proceed to the house of Musi.
Four or five men would stay behind at the military base for observation. the house of Musi we would enter the gate and find two or three guards at the gates. They would be disarmed by “General”, Solly or Steve. The “General” would keep the guards busy while, Solly or Steve would disarm the guards. Hereafter we would proceed to the main house where there is only one guard Steve was instructed to open the barred doors of the bedroom with a crowbar. After Musi was taken hostage he would be taken to the local broadcasting station where he would be forced to announce to the nation that he was retiring. From there the “General” would take him straight to prison. He assured us that he would have the support of everybody and Musi would be replaced.
Every one of us would get paid and if some of us wanted to work in Lesotho, jobs would be secured.
During the briefing the “General” mentioned that the guns were not enough but that he paid R56 000 to a man from the RSA to buy weapons in Mozambique and deliver them. The arms were never delivered. He promised that we would get other weapons in Lesotho.
Between 15:00 and 16:00 we were instructed by the “General” to get ready and change clothing. Jesse arrived and spoke privately with the “General”. Jesse called me and asked me if I was okay. I told him that I wanted to withdraw from the action. I was then threatened and made me the driver. I was given a camouflage T-shirt. We were then initiated again and I was cut with a razor blade on various parts of my body.
After the initiation the weapons were distributed. The “General” chose one R4/R5 for himself.
We followed the Fiat bakkie that Jesse was driving to the place where the roof was.
The Canter arrived. It was about 18:00. I received a message on my cell-phone.
It was a message from my daughter’s mother.
I called my wife and spoke to her and dropped the phone.
We were instructed by “General” to get into the Canter. We left and Jesse followed us with the black Fiat bakkie. We reached a tarmac road with Jesse leading now. From the tarmac on a short gravel road we parked on the left in the bushes, Jesse made a U-turn and we were instructed by the General to get out of the car. Jesse came to me and told me that I will be driving with Spiriano and we will meet the others in Lesotho.
I got into the Canter with Spiriano and we went to Lesotho to the Border gate, at the Border Post I got out of the Canter and walked. While I was walking unknown men came and joined me and he showed me the way to cross the border. After crossing the border, Spiriano came with the same canter to pick me up. We left to meet the other guys in Lesotho, who crossed on another place than the Boarder Post. At the point of gathering we could not find the guys there and we passed that place and made a U-turn. Spiriano called Jesse to let him know that we could not find the people we were supposed to meet. On our way back we met the General who took us to where the other guys were. All of the guys got into the car and I was told to go and sit at the back with these guys. We drove up to a filling station next to the Clinic. I do not know the name of the clinic but remember that the name was written in green or blue. At the filling station they got out of the vehicle to buy Lesotho airtime. When they returned, they told us that there was something wrong with the vehicle we were driving and that we could not proceed with this vehicle. They suggested to call Maxi Taxi and order a Venture and on his arrival the vehicle must be hi-jacked. I then asked General if this Venture will accommodate all of us. We then moved to another place which is unknown to me and parked next to the houses. Myself and Steve were told to go and stand next to the road because where the Venture will pass. I told Spiriano to come with us because he can speak their language. He then informed us that he cannot come with us because he is well known. Two Ventures a white and red Denture passed us, but we did not hi-jack these Ventures and we were then told to get back into the truck. We then left to another place and were instructed to get out of the truck. The General then showed us a place and informed us that this was the Military Camp we were supposed to go.
Spiriano stayed with the vehicle and we went further on foot. The General then handed over a camouflage T-Shirt to me to wear. We then divided up and I joined another group and afterwards the General came and showed us the way to go. He then left to go to the other group. A part of the fence was flattened and we got over it to enter the Military Camp.
After we entered the Military Camp the General, Steve and Solie together with ± 8 guys went off and left us behind. The instruction was that somebody will come and fetch us after ± 20 minutes. The General came about 10 min later to fetch us and we went with him. When we got at the building, we found seven Lesotho soldiers with their hands tied. The General then asked the soldiers in Sotho where is the keys? The General then asks what is inside the building, the soldiers were not able to say and the General then broke the door with a crowbar. When the door was opened, I saw that there were guns, bulletproofs, and other Military items inside. The General then called some of us and instructed us to get firearms and bulletproofs. The firearms that we took were AK 47’s, and either R4 or R5 rifles. The General then divided us again into two groups. The one group of ± 13 guys with the five soldiers of Lesotho were left in the building. The General and the other group (± 6 guys) went to a parking lot where many vehicles were parked. The one vehicle was an armored vehicle and the other a Military Jeep. The General asked me if I will be able to drive this armored vehicle and I said no.
The General then instructed the soldiers to get into the Army vehicle and drive it. The General, Steve and Solie and one other guy left in the armored vehicle. Myself and the others of the group left with the Jeep. We went back to the building where the remainder of the group where. We were then instructed to load the firearms in the Jeep as well the armored vehicle and to bring the other five soldiers with us. At the gate a Lesotho soldier tried to stop us but we did not stop and continued. Once we pass the gate one of the Mozambican nationals that was with us indicated that he is going to kill the Lesotho soldiers as instructed by the General earlier. I then told him to wait because they were fastened and was not a threat to us. We followed the armored vehicle to Musi’s house as planned earlier.
On our arrival the guards in the guardroom opened the gate after they saw the armored vehicle. The vehicle entered and we followed with the Jeep. We stop Jeep in the middle of the entrance of the gate. We were waiting for the General and Steve to disarm the soldiers as planned earlier. After ± 1 minute, one of them tried to open the door from the armored vehicle and it was then when the shooting started.
The guards shot at the armored vehicle as well as the Jeep. When the shooting started the driver of the Jeep jumped of and ran away. I heard one of the Mozambican guys at the back screaming that he has been shot. I then jumped behind the steering wheel of the Jeep and reversed it from the premises. During this time shots were fired from both sides. During the shooting I noticed that the General got out of the armored vehicle. The shooting continued and then the armored vehicle got out of the premises and was parked next to the guard room next to the main entrance. After the shooting stopped the General instructed us to follow the armored vehicle. We then followed them back to the camp where we took the firearms as well as the vehicles. At the main entrance the soldiers tried to stop us but we entered without stopping. We stopped next to the hospital in the Military camp. After a short conversation between myself and the General, he instructed to leave the premises. I then got back into the Jeep and left for the entrance to exit the premises, but before we could get to the entrance a white Hilux bakkie was parked across to prevent us from exiting. We then passed at the other side of the bakkie. When we reached the gate the guards started to shoot at us and we returned fire. The guys in the armored vehicle started shooting at our vehicle I then drove past them and they then stop next to me. I asked them why are they shooting at us they say it was a mistake. We then followed them again. After a while we stopped and I informed them that the Jeep can’t drive further because the tyres were shot. The General said we must continue driving. Later on we stopped and they got out of the armored vehicle and parked it in the bushes and they came to the Jeep. When the General came to the Jeep, he was surprised that the soldiers were still with us. The General wanted to know why are the soldiers still with us, I told him that they were not a threat. I then instructed the General to do with them what they have done with the other two soldiers which were driving with them in the armored vehicle. The other two soldiers were still tied up into the armored vehicle. We then took the other five to the armored vehicle. All of us got onto the Jeep together with the General and left them there. We kept on driving until we reached a vicinity where there were houses. I then again told the General that this vehicle cannot go further. The General then told us that we must hijack a vehicle. The General said we must wait in the Jeep and he and Steve went to the tar-road. A white minibus stopped at the General and Steve and after a moment the minibus left with the General and Steve and left us behind. After a while I saw the minibus making a U-turn towards us. We were called to get into the minibus. The other guys ran away leaving the injured guy behind. I called them back to help me get the injured guy into the minibus. All of us got into the minibus. On our way we picked up somebody who wanted a lift to town. I stopped next to the guy. I asked him to show us the way out. He got into the minibus and directed us out. After driving 100m we came across another white minibus and the passengers of that minibus started to shoot at us. We returned fire and nobody in our minibus was injured. Before we could reach town, Steve told this guy that we want a place where we can cross to South Africa on foot. The General and Steve were not satisfied with this place and I was instructed to reverse and go back to town. We dropped the guy, Solie gave him R20-00 and one other guy gave him R10-00. We then left. When I came to a traffic light, I stopped. It was a T-junction. I then turned right after the General instructed me to do so. I looked into the mirror I saw lights flickering I told the General there is a vehicle behind us and I asked him if I must stopped.
He told me to continue driving on a high speed. I told him that I cannot because it is a minibus. I stopped and the bakkie stopped behind me. The General then jumped out of the minibus and after few seconds I heard shots being exchanged. I cannot say who fired first but I know the General was armed with a AK 47. I tried to open the driver’s door and I then realised that shots were fired in my direction, all of us were shouting and screaming. Steve then got out of the minibus and I followed. Some of the people were still in the minibus. When I looked back, I saw another car with blue-lights and shooting was ongoing.
We (me, General, Steve, Solie, Pinto and 12 of the other guys) were running towards the direction of the river I heard the shooting stop. We started walking and the General, Steve and other were no longer behind us and we were ± 9 people. At that stage the sun was starting to rise. I then switched on my phone as we get to a place was few small trees were. When I realized my phone got network I thought I was in South Africa and made a phone call to the cell phone number which I took from the logo on the construction vehicle in Walkerville. I told the person that pick up the phone to call me back and on his return call I realized it was Jesse calling from a private. Jesse asked where I was and what is happening. I told him I don’t know where I am. He then asks if I was alone I told him that I was with other guys and that I don’t know where the General is. Jesse asked if Steve or Solie is with me and I told him Solie is with me and he requested me to give the phone to him. Solie was busy on his phone. Solie asked me to hold his phone, on the phone he was busy talking to the lady of Soweto. I answered the phone, the lady asked where are the guys from Katlahong, and she thought she was still talking to Solie.
I answered that it is me speaking. She asked if all of all three of us are safe. I said Yes. She then said she will organise transport to pick us up and I must tell Solie not to switch off his cellphone. The network went off again. At that moment we were ± 9 guys (me, Solie, Pinto, Rocky and other Mozambican nationals). A green / brown helicopter appeared, when we were still under the tree.
The helicopter went to the direction where we were moving to and after a while disappeared. Sollie and the Mozambican nationals started to walk away from us and myself, Rocky, Pinto stayed behind. Rocky suggested that we go through the “mielieland” and on our way we heard gunshot I then saw Sollie and others running back in our direction. Pinto told him that he was shot and that he thinks he is going to die here.
Pinto just fell down and I am not sure if he fell next or into the river. I fell next to the river and walked back and crossed the river on my own. I then saw a SA Helicopter which went to Lesotho and I heard shots again.
I then lay down and rest for ± 5 hours later that afternoon I started my journey again through the farms. When I was on one of the farms I saw a red car with four occupants, 2 white and 2 black.
They saw me and one of the black guys got out and returned with the police. I started running into a sunflower land and escaped. Later the evening I went to a house in Ladybrand where I got arrested.
I made this statement out of my free will.
I know and understand the contents of the declaration.
I have no objection in taking the prescribed oath.
I consider the prescribed oath to be binding in my conscience.
I certify that the above statement was taken by me and that the deponent has acknowledged that he / she knows and understands the contents of this statement. The statement was sworn to affirmed before me and deponent’s signature / rank / thumbprint was placed thereon in my presence.
MASERU — On April 22 a group of bandits stormed the Makoanyane Barrack, hijacked two army vehicles and stole guns which they used to launch an attack on the State House.