‘This is the Devil we are looking for’

‘This is the Devil we are looking for’

 

MASERU

Satane eo re ntseng re e batla ke ena,” (This is the Devil we are looking for.)

Those were the chilling threats barked by soldiers as they attacked ’Mabatho Phafoli ’Muso, an 82-year-old grandmother.

The soldiers had besieged ’Muso’s homestead in search of stolen cattle belonging to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

’Muso, who was the area chieftainess for Qabane, Senqunyane and Motsekuoa in Mohale’s Hoek, has dragged the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and the government to court over the assault and damage to her property.

All she is demanding is M1 300 to fix her damaged door and windows.

The matter is before High Court judge Justice Semapo Peete.

But the army has defended its actions saying they only broke the door after ’Muso defied their instructions to open the door.

The state lawyer, who is defending the LDF, Defence Minister and the Attorney General, Moshoeshoe Letsie, told the court on Tuesday that the soldiers had to break the door after the ’Muso refused to open.

The soldiers were providing security at Mosisili’s rural home in Qacha’s Nek.

Letsie said the soldiers had no option because ’Muso was holding on tightly to the door.

’Muso, who is now 87 years old, testified how the soldiers attacked her and damaged her property and beat up villagers who tried to help her when the soldiers attacked her home in 2011.

’Muso’s problems began after one of her junior chiefs from Senqunyane brought a herd of stray cattle to her kraal for safekeeping.

The junior chief had allegedly told ’Muso that his men had found the cattle grazing in the communal forest unattended.

’Muso agreed to keep the cattle while her men informed the police about the incident.

But instead of the police ’Muso got a visit from the soldiers who were understood to be Mosisili’s guards at his Qacha’s Nek house.

They were allegedly using a government four-by-four twin cab vehicle with registration number Y3947.

This vehicle was identified by ’Muso’s son, Phafoli, who was the president of a local court.

’Muso says she was with her granddaughter who was breastfeeding her four-month old baby when the soldiers attacked the house in broad daylight.

She says she had decided to keep the cattle because she wanted the police to handle the matter.

Under normal circumstances the chief keeps the cattle until the police can identify the owners.

She says she had called the Ha-Sekake police and she was waiting for them to arrive when the soldiers came.

She says the soldiers arrived after the village men had left her place. Her son had also gone to the police to report about the cattle.

As she was waiting and her granddaughter was breastfeeding the baby, she heard some men shouting outside and banging on her front door ordering her to open.

She was asking who it was when all of a sudden she heard a gunshot and a bullet ripped off a plank from the door and hit the opposite wall.

Many more bullets followed.

‘Muso says she saw a uniformed soldier through a window while another one who was at the door was barking at her to open.

’Muso says she pushed the key under the door and told the soldiers to open the door themselves.

By this time her granddaughter was hiding in a corner with the screaming baby in her arms.

The soldiers then allegedly went to ’Muso’s kraal, took the cattle and left.

’Muso said the soldiers were arrogant and used abusive language.

It was at that point that Justice Peete asked Moshoeshoe, who was cross examining her, if the police had accompanied the soldiers.

Moshoeshoe told the judge that the soldiers reported the cattle theft to the police but they went to ’Muso’s village on their own, in the absence of the police.

“Did they have the authority to resolve the matter themselves?” Justice Peete asked.

“Soldiers have no right to deal with the matter themselves even if (the cattle were) stolen from them. You will have to address me on that,” the judge said.

Moshoeshoe put it to ’Muso that the soldiers had no alternative but to damage her door to get inside her house because she was holding tight to the door.

’Muso said had the soldiers not been threatening, she could have calmly opened and let them in.

’Muso told the court that she heard the soldiers calling her the Devil.

She wants the government to pay her M1 300 but Moshoeshoe challenged her to justify the amount by providing receipts.

But the judge then intervened.

“Let’s suppose this witness was illiterate, does it mean people who could not read and write do not know how much is their property worth?” he asked.

The case will continue on April 12 and 15.

 

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