Misery for soldiers in SA

Misery for soldiers in SA

MASERU-THE two Basotho soldiers who have been detained in South Africa since July could be in for more misery.
thepost can reveal that attempts by the government of Lesotho and South

Africa to use political influence to get them released have failed.
The soldiers are being held in Matatiele after they were arrested along the Lesotho-South Africa border while on patrol on July 19. Since then diplomatic efforts to secure their release have hit a brick wall.
They were charged with stock theft, illegal crossing, possession of firearms and violation of South Africa’s Covid-19 regulations.
The stock theft charge has since been dropped.

The arrest of Private Dumile Tšoeunyane, 22, and Private Rorisang Moepi, 26, triggered a back and forth between the military authorities of the two countries.
The South African army initially tried to negotiate their release but was told that it was impossible because the matter was already in court.
The Lesotho government’s attempt to send an envoy to Pretoria also drew a blank.

The South African government tried as well but failed. This means that the soldiers will remain in detention until their matter is finalised.
thepost can reveal that one of the soldiers sustained an eye injury during the arrest.

Their arrest has been an emotive subject in public discussions.
Those emotions were on display in parliament this week when MPs traded insults after one asked Defence Minister, Prince Maliehe, for an update on the issue.
Qhalasi MP, Palo Leteetee, of the Democratic Congress (DC), lost his cool as he berated Alliance of Democrats (AD)’s Dr Mahali Phamotse for asking Maliehe about the soldiers.

“Voetsek!” Leteetee screamed at Dr Phamotse after she persisted (Voetsek is an offensive Afrikaans term meaning “go away”).
Maliehe replied that there is progress on the court case as “the testimonies from two sides were heard”.
He said the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) will give its final testimony on 23 November 2020, after which the court will make a ruling.
Dr Phamotse asked the minister why Lesotho had not asked SADC to intervene.

She also asked why the Lesotho government released two South African soldiers who were arrested in Maseru for violating Covid-19 regulations.
She argued that the South African soldiers should have been “used as bargaining chips so that our two soldiers are released urgently”.
Maliehe said Lesotho’s courts were the ones who released two South African soldiers.
“We cannot call SADC’s intervention because both we and South Africa are trying to resolve the problem,” Maliehe said.

The minister said the two Lesotho soldiers’ case was postponed several times thus extending their detention.
“We used lawyers from Lesotho but due to the delay caused by that our ministry engaged a senior counsel in South Africa, Advocate Dumisa Ntsebenze,” Maliehe said.
He said after Advocate Ntsebenza took over “things are expected to run smoothly and speedily”.

A seemingly irate Leteete then said MPs “should stop asking unnecessary questions as both the Lesotho and South African governments are agreeing that the two detained soldiers should be released”.
“The matter is now in the hands of the courts and they are the ones who refuse,” Leteetee said.

At that juncture Fako Moshoeshoe, the MP for Mabote, said the issue can easily spoil relations between the two countries.
“For the sake of Basotho and South Africans the borders must be handled with care,” said Moshoeshoe, who is a former soldier.
He was about to tell the House more about the issue but the Speaker Sephiri Motanyane stopped him, saying the House could not discuss issues in the courts.

Nkheli Liphoto

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