MASERU — Two men who were accused of spearheading the attacks on government ministers’ homes in 2007 have denied any involvement in the attacks. Thabiso Mahase and Lefa Ramantsoe were responding to an article in last week’s issue of the Sunday Express which said the two were wanted together with Jessie Ramakatane, who is fighting extradition in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court in South Africa.
The article said Ramakatane is likely to be charged for masterminding the attacks on the homes of ministers Motloheloa Phooko and Mothetjoa Metsing during the 2007 post-election disturbances. Mahase and Ramantsoe this week however distanced themselves from Ramakatane saying they were not connected to the charges he is facing. “We want to distance ourselves from these charges and from Ramakatane’s possible charges if he is finally extradited because the past government failed dismally to have us extradited,” Mahase said.
“When we came back to Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane openly invited anybody who had anything against us that warranted our prosecution to come forward and nobody did that.” Mahase, Ramantsoe and Litšitso Sekamane, who is a former commander of the now defunct Lesotho Liberation Army, returned home last year after they received a general amnesty from King Letsie III.
Mahase said “the fact that the Director of Public Prosecution Leaba Thatsane failed to convince extradition court” in South Africa to bring them back to Lesotho to be prosecuted means that they need not be associated with the 2007 crimes.
Ramantsoe added that Thetsane “was given an opportunity to state his case against us but failed to provide convincing evidence that indeed we were worthy of being prosecuted in Lesotho”. “So, your article is wrong to suggest that Ramakatane could be prosecuted for the 2007 crimes we committed together because the prosecution failed to show that we had a case to answer,” Ramantsoe said.
“We have been in the country for almost a year now and your article wants to provoke the spirit of revenge in people who might believe that we were part of the 2007 disturbances,” he said. Mahase and Ramantsoe also distanced themselves from the April 2009 attacks at the State House and Makoanyane Military Barracks. “We all know who were caught by the Lesotho army and the South African police in the act of attacking (former Prime Minister Pakalitha) Mosisili and his government,” Mahase said.
“If Ramakatane will face any charge in connection with those attacks I don’t know, what I know is that I was never part of it and Ramakatane’s extradition and prosecution in Lesotho will not have any criminal bearing on me,” Mahase said.
“You know well that mercenaries were caught, prosecuted and convicted. So, separate us from their case and from Ramakatane’s extradition if he is ever connected to it,” he said.
The Randburg Magistrate’s Court will on July 16 hear Ramakatane’s extradition case. Ramakatane is accused of masterminding the April 22, 2009 attempted coup against Mosisili. The hearing for the extradition, which dragged in the courts for the whole of last year, was set for June 4 and 5, but did not take off after Ramakatane failed to show up.
Ramakatane was arrested by Interpol in Johannesburg’s Randburg suburb in South Africa on April 24 last year. He is being accused of bankrolling and organising the 15 mercenaries who attacked State House and Makoanyane Barracks on the night of April 22, 2009.
Although Ramakatane is wanted in Lesotho in connection with the attacks, his arrest last year was in connection with the 2007 attacks on ministers’ homes. The Sunday Express understands that Ramakatane was released on a R20 000 bail after he appeared in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on April 26. During the hearing in Randburg, Ramakatane was told that he was wanted in Lesotho for his alleged role in the 2007 post-election disturbances.