Beaten, shot and finally amputated

Beaten, shot and finally amputated

MASERU – WRITHING with pain from gunshot wounds, Motlatsi Tšooana is bed-ridden and struggles to speak as he narrates how he came within a whisker of death at the hands of the police
On August 28 this year, the police pounced on him in the middle of the night as he slept and pumped several bullets into the 35-year-old demanding that he hand over an illegal firearm.
Since that day, a once promising life is now a nightmare, says Tšooana.

“I am being assisted by my family members to do everything, including going to the toilet,” Tšooana tells thepost from his bed, exposing big stomach wounds.
He says doctors removed seven bullets from his body. Another is still buried in his buttocks. Doctors have fastened a small colosity bag around Tšooana’s waist to help him relieve himself.
Tšooana says doctors have told him that his kidneys and pancreas were damaged during the shooting and subsequent torture.
The country is undergoing reforms aimed at democratising the country, and many Basotho are hoping that the process will lead to an end to decades of human rights violations by security agents such as the police and the military.

Tšooana’s case highlights the huge challenges that await the reform process and how civilians are still at the mercy of human rights violations at the hands of security agents.
On the fateful day, Tšooana says a group of police officers stormed his home at Ha Sekete on the Berea plateau in the middle of the night asking him to hand over a gun to them.
Tšooana says since it was at night, he told the police to come back with his area chief so that he could be convinced that his “visitors” were genuine police officers.
Instead, the law enforcement agents began peeping through his window. One of them shone his torch on him and began shooting him. He says he was an easy target because his bed was close to the window.

An altercation ensued as Tšooana refused to open the door in defiance of orders from the police.
The police left, before returning with the local chief and confiscated the illegal fire arm. He claims the gun was never used to commit a crime.
“The house was riddled with bullets and peppered with spray,” he says.

He alleges the police drove him to a quarry where he was stoned, aggravating injuries from the shooting.
He says he was later taken to Teyateyaneng police, who took him to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital in Maseru.
“These police officers were sure that they had finished me when they pulled me to the car,” Ts’ooana says.
His right hand was badly injured that doctors had to amputate it “because it was useless”.

What complicates life for Tšooana is that his medication has run out and he is unable to go back to the hospital because he is broke.
To attend routine check-ups at the hospital, he is usually assisted by “Good Samaritans” in the area because there is no public transport in his area and he cannot afford to hire a car.
Narrating his heart- wrenching ordeal to thepost at his home in Ha Sekete, Tšooana says he is clueless on what steps he could take to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice, although he is mulling suing for damages.

Now with just one hand, Tšooana says he is in desperate need for help from anyone who could come to his rescue.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said they do not have a record of the case and is not aware if the victim opened a case against the police.
Following his brutal attack, Ts’ooana says some politicians especially those from the opposition visited him but have not assisted him in any way.
He says the Transformation Resource Centre has also visited him to witness how he was tortured.

The TRC’s Human Rights Commissioner Advocate Lepeli Moeketsi said they condemned the police use of torture against suspects.
Moeketsi said the TRC’s position remains the same with the one he presented at the African Union’s Human Rights Commission last month.
He told the Commission that the police often flagrantly ignore Section 8 of the Constitution that states that “no person shall be subjected to torture or inhumane or degrading punishment or other treatment”.

“Although the Constitution and the LMPS Act of 1998 expressly prohibit torture and inhuman practices, Lesotho is currently experiencing rampant incidents of torture and killings by members of the police,” he said.

Moeketsi also spoke criticised comments by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Temeki Tšolo who is on record as saying the “police must shoot criminals and the government will collect the corpses”.

“It is evident that police are perpetrating these barbaric actions because they believe that they have been blessed by the Prime Minister and some of his cabinet ministers,” he told the Commission.

Majara Molupe

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