We are sorry, says army

We are sorry, says army

MASERU-A Semphetenyane man suffered severe fractures on his two arms and a leg after he was brutally assaulted by soldiers last Friday.
The incident, perhaps the worst recorded so far, vividly illustrates how soldiers and the police have been brutalising citizens as they enforce a 21-day lockdown to fight the Covid-19 disease breakout.
There have been scores of other brutal acts perpetrated by the army and the police that have been reported countrywide.
In a riveting account, Thabang Mohlabisa, told thepost how soldiers pounced on him as he was polishing his shoes outside his house last Friday.
Mohlabisa, a security guard, was so brutalised that he can no longer walk on his own without help.

He said his son, Thabo, had gone to collect water from a tap inside his yard when he was confronted by a soldier wearing a balaclava.
The soldier, who was among a group that was beating up people in the streets, walked towards his son and called him but he refused.

“He then asked the boy if he thought he would run faster than him. That’s when the boy ran into the house,” Mohlabisa said.
“He told me he was aware that I didn’t know how to discipline my children and he would teach me how to do it in a hard way.”
Mohlabisa said the soldier then ordered him to lie on the ground but he refused resulting in the two men arguing for some minutes.

The soldier lost his cool and started assaulting Mohlabisa with a baton.
“I shielded my body and my head with my hands. I could feel my bones break,” Mohlabisa said.
The beating didn’t stop even as he was crying and telling the soldier that he was breaking his arms.
“My arms gave in. I had to use my legs to shield myself,” he said.
While he was being beaten to a pulp, his wife appeared on the window begging the soldier to stop but the soldier angrily told her to “close the door” or he would come for her.

Those living with Mohlabisa in the yard of rented houses were so terrified that they could only watch in the safety of their houses.
The soldier ordered Mohlabisa to roll to the tap (about 10 feet away) and back “and as I rolled, he beat me on my buttocks and back”.
“That is how I got badly bruised on my butt,” he said.

The ordeal went on for about 30 minutes, according to Mohlabisa.
Mohlabisa’s neighbours only managed to help him after the soldier left.
“They helped me up and put me into my house. There were no taxis to take me to the hospital,” he said.
“My employers sent for a car to take me to the hospital.”

He was taken to hospital, sent for X-rays and both his arms and a leg were put in plaster.
Mohlabisa could not identify the soldier who brutally assaulted him.
The LDF Commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, accompanied by the army’s medical team, visited Mohlabisa at his home on Tuesday.
“They came to tell me they were aware of the situation and see me,” Mohlabisa said.

He said the army had promised to provide transport for him to seek medical attention.
Yesterday, a medical team from the LDF also visited Mohlabisa.
Mohlabisa said the assault had left him seriously traumatized.
“You can only imagine how I feel to know that I was beaten like that in front of my wife and kids . . . how embarrassed I am today that everyone including neighbours saw that,” he said.
He said his three-year old daughter witnessed the entire incident.
“She is traumatised. She cries when she sees soldiers in uniform pass by.”

Asked if he will sue the army, Mohlabisa was non-committal.
“I will wait for the army to come back to me and tell me what they have planned and then after that I will make a decision,” he said.
LDF spokesman, Brigadier Ntle Ntoi, said they were aware of the incident.
“We have got a record of what happened,” he said.

He said they have told the family that they are going to work with them through the “journey” and would help them cover their medical costs.
“But we will not stop them from taking any legal route if they so wish,” he said.
Brig Ntoi said they have conducted their investigations and the officer involved will face stern disciplinary action.
He said the military “strongly apologises” for the incident.

The police commanders have also since issued a statement calling on their members to stop harassing the people.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Paseka Mokete warned that drastic measures will be taken against any police officer caught assaulting people.

Majara Molupe & Rose Moremoholo

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