Police must explain Mojakhomo’s whereabouts

Police must explain Mojakhomo’s whereabouts

The family of Makarabo Mojakhomo this week filed an urgent application in the High Court asking the police to present their daughter dead or alive. Mojakhomo is said to have mysteriously “disappeared” within the police headquarters holding cells last weekend.

The dramatic development comes after Mojakhomo was arrested last week for allegedly defrauding the First Lady Maesaia Thabane’s Trust Fund of thousands of maloti. She is facing fraud and theft by false pretence charges.

In court papers filed at the High Court this week, a lawyer representing the family said the matter should be heard on an urgent basis following speculation on social media that Mojakhomo had been “murdered by the police while in interrogation rooms”. The family also says the police had kept Mojakhomo in “continuous detention without presenting her before a court of law”, which is a violation of Lesotho’s laws.

They also argue that the police had refused to allow the family and lawyers “to consult with her while she is in detention”. It is our hope that Mojakhomo, in spite of all her alleged transgressions, is alive and well. We do not even want to speculate that she is dead. That is just too ghastly to contemplate.

We will therefore be reluctant to jump to the conclusion that she is dead. But if by any chance she is dead, then this could be one of the biggest blows to the government’s claim that it is committed to the rule of law and respect for human rights. It is therefore in the government’s interests that the police present Mojakhomo to the family and reassure them that their daughter is alive and well.

The current coalition government was swept into power on the basis of overwhelming national sentiment that it would do things differently particularly with regards to respect for human rights. It cannot be seen to be using the same loathed tactics that we saw in the last few years where the powerful and well-connected would kill with impunity.

If Mojakhomo is dead, then this government risks losing the higher moral ground. It would only confirm that we merely replaced individuals within the government but left the brutal structures of repression intact. Basotho wanted an end to the systemic culture of violence and senseless killings that we saw in the last few years when they ushered in this coalition government into power last year.

They do not want to see more of the same nonsense. On yet another level, the Mojakhomo issue smells like the Khetheng case. The characters might be different but the plot looks the same. They say those who do not learn from history are bound to make the same mistakes. We hope we are not seeing a repeat of the Khetheng murder scenario in this latest case.

After her arrest last Tuesday, Mojakhomo was now a guest of the state. The police had an obligation to keep her safe. There should have been no way that a detainee could have been allowed to slip through tight security at the police headquarters.

The police, whose reputation is already tarnished, must therefore clearly explain to the courts and the nation the circumstances that led to Mojakhomo’s alleged “disappearance”.

They cannot wash their hands off this matter.

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