Soldiers charged over Mahao

Soldiers charged over Mahao

MASERU – THE wheels of justice for the late Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao are finally moving.
This after eight soldiers charged with his murder in June 2015 briefly appeared in the Maseru Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
The suspects are Captain Litekanya Nyakane, Captain Haleeo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi ’Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi.
They sat sullen in the dock as Magistrate Lerato Ntelane read their charges.

And they did not respond when the magistrate asked if they had anything to say.
The charge sheet says they acted with “a common intention” to kill Lt Gen Mahao.
More than 10 members of the Mahao family sat on the front bench staring at the accused in the dock.
Lt Gen Mahao’s widow, ’Mamphanya Mahao, was not in the courtroom.

Among the relatives was Professor Nqosa Mahao, who is Vice-Chancellor at the National University of Lesotho.
For two years the Mahao family has fought to have their son’s killers brought to justice. That fight has taken them to the African Union and SADC.
At home they have pushed the government, the army and the police for answers.
Even when the investigation looked stalled the Mahaos have kept the issue in the public domain.
For Professor Mahao, seeing the suspects finally in the dock was a bitter-sweet experience.

“The English say the ‘arch of history always bends towards justice’,” he told thepost in an interview last night.
“It is that saying that has kept us going and strong as a family in the past two and half years when we were fighting what was essentially a vicious regime.”

“Even though there is nothing that can bring solace when one experiences such a loss, especially of such a patriotic man, we are grateful that the wheels of justice are finally grinding along.”
Professor Mahao however says he does not believe the eight suspects could have acted alone.
The suspects, he says, are just “small mercenaries paid to do the evil deed on someone’s behalf”.

“Behind them were the real plotters and conspirators who tasked them to do this act. We will therefore spare no effort to make sure that those political principals and sponsors are brought to justice.”
He says while in court he “looked into the eyes of the suspects and got the impression that these are just hired mercenaries”.
Professor Mahao said the family believes that the killing of Lt Gen Mahao was not a random act or a botched arrest.

He narrates how his brother was stripped of his security, included elements from the South African security sector, when he came back from South Sudan.
Even his personal bodyguards and guns were taken, he says.
“That rendered him a sitting duck for the lynching that followed.”
He says his brother tried to talk to then Defence Minister, Tseliso Mokhosi, about his security but the minister refused to meet him.

“You don’t refuse to meet someone in such circumstances even if you hate them. This was a meticulously planned operation to kill an innocent man. We look forward to the day when the real powers behind those eight suspects are brought to court.”
Lepeli Moeketsi, a legal officer at Transformation Resource Centre, an ecumenical organisation, said the trial symbolises the government’s commitment to fully implement SADC’s recommendations.

“Such developments are a good sign that there is a difference between the past government and the current one. There is a reflection of political will, rule of law and good governance as well as morality.

Lt Gen Mahao was shot dead near his rural home in Mokema in an operation the army claims was meant to arrest him for his role in a mutiny plot.
He was in the company of two male relatives who later testified before the SADC Commission established to investigate his death.
Evidence from a ballistics expert and a pathologist poked holes in the army’s explanation that Lt. Gen. Mahao had pulled out his gun and was resisting arrest when he was killed.

Their evidence also questioned the army’s claims that he was still alive when he arrived at the military hospital.
Lt. Gen. Mahao was accused of hatching a mutiny plot against Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, a man he had replaced as commander but had refused to leave office.

Lt Gen Kamoli’s refusal to leave pushed Lesotho into a crisis that would eventually lead to the collapse of the government.
Former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s government quickly moved to restore Lt Gen Kamoli and demote Lt. Gen. Mahao.
The question of who really killed Mahao had remained misty with the army refusing to release suspects and holding on to crucial evidence.
In his evidence to the commission the late Brigadier Bulane Sechele, who confirmed that he was head of the operation, refused to give the names of the soldiers involved.

Brigadier Sechele died in September this year when he was allegedly shot dead by bodyguards of Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo.
The government says Sechele shot Motšomotšo in his Makoanyane Barracks office.
The army says Lt Gen Motšomotšo was about to handover Brigadier Sechele and other senior officers over to the police for crimes they committed.
The charged soldiers will appear in court again on December 12.

Senate Sekotlo

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