8 soldiers charged with murder

8 soldiers charged with murder

MASERU – EIGHT soldiers, including a brigadier who is the commander of Military Intelligence, allegedly abducted three men and strangled them to death. Police are yet to verify suspicions that they dumped the three bodies in Mohale Dam. Military Intelligence commander Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali and Private Nthathakane Motanyane were remanded in custody on Monday after a brief appearance before Senior Magistrate Peter Murenzi.

Warrant Officer Liphapang Sefako, Lance Corporal Machai and Private Faso were remanded in custody on Wednesday afternoon.
Advocate Qcinimuzi Tshabalala is prosecuting. The charge sheet alleges that the soldiers killed the men on May 16 near Setibing in Maseru District. It states that the men were strangled.

The police are preparing for a search of the men’s bodies in the 80-metre deep Mohale Dam, according to spokesman Inspector Mpiti Mopeli.
Mopeli said: “The police are preparing to establish whether it is true or not that the deceased have been thrown into the dam.”
“We will know that once they are taken out of the water and if it is confirmed that they are the same missing men.”
The three men, Lekhoele Noko from Leribe, Molise Pakela and Khothatso Makibinyane, both from Mpharane in the Mohale’s Hoek district, disappeared in May.

Pakela is Makibinyane’s maternal uncle. The three were members of a famo music group called Phula-Bobete that was involved in a shootout with Military Intelligence officers at Maseru Bridge Border on May 13.
The group was coming from a funeral in Mafeteng when one of them allegedly refused to be searched and pulled out a gun. A soldiers and a vendor were killed in a fire exchange.

Police arrested the suspect as well as other gang members and detained them at Maseru Central Police Station.
Noko, Pakela and Makibinyane were however later released without charge. That was the last time they were seen alive.
Their families have been searching for them since then, with both the army and the police insisting that they don’t know their whereabouts.
The police had however suspected that the army knew what happened to the men because they had seen “suspicious movement of soldiers near the police station” when the men were in custody.

Desperate for answers, one of the families filed an urgent application in the High Court to compel the army and the police to bring their sons dead or alive. In a subsequent hearing before Justice Semapo Peete the army, through one Captain Monyeke, insisted that it did not know what happened to the men.

The arrest of the five soldiers comes after Justice Peete last week ordered Senior Superintendent Api Letsie to “leave no stone unturned” in the search for the missing men. This was after Letsie had told the judge that police detectives who were investigating the May 13 incident were being stalked by soldiers in plain clothes.

Letsie did not reveal the identity of the soldiers. The judge had also heard that the police had enhanced security at their detention cells because they suspected that the soldiers were planning to take the suspects by force.

One of the investigators, Detective Constable Ratsebe, was abducted at his gate by four armed men and was later found dumped near Morija.
Pakela and Makibinyane went missing immediately after their release from police custody on May 16. Their families never knew where they went from the Maseru Central Police Station.

But Noko was taken from his mother by heavily armed men who were travelling in two twin-cab vehicles bearing no registration numbers at Lekokoaneng while they were on their way to their home in Leribe. Noko and his mother were in the bus when heavily armed men pulled it over, grabbed him and sped off. Makibinyane’s mother, ’Makhothatso Makibinyane, is the one who filed the habeas corpus case against the army that has been dragging in court for almost a month.

’Makhothatso described her agony in an interview with thepost last week.
She said she has not slept well since her son disappeared.
’Makhothatso’s sister-in-law ’Mamathealira Pakela who is Molise Pakela’s mother said she does not know if they should have mourning rituals.
’Makhothatso and ’Mamathealira desperately want to believe their two sons are probably alive somewhere. Yet they know that there is a strong possibility that their sons are dead.
The cases of the man are strikingly similar to that of Constable Mokalekale Khetheng who was missing for more than a year until his body was recently found in a pauper’s grave.
His family too had launched a habeas corpus case in which the police vehemently denied that they knew where he was.
Several police officers were later arrested in connection with his murder.

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