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Detainees’ wives plead for justice



MASERU- THE families of soldiers and policemen in custody for various crimes are worried that their relatives will not get fair trials.
In a detailed letter to the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, a human rights group, the families raise concerns about the treatment of their relatives in custody.
The letter was written by 34 families, including that of detained former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.
It was copied to the SADC Secretariat and the SADC’s facilitator to Lesotho, Justice Dikgang Moseneke. Also copied are embassies in Lesotho, local NGOs and other international organisations like the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund.
The families raise questions about the fairness of the process that led to the arrest of the soldiers and police officers, their torture while in custody and alleged attempts to force them to turn state witnesses.

Concisely written, the letter reads like a charge sheet against the government. It meticulously chips at the government’s evidence and narrative against the soldiers and policemen.
It starts by pointing out that there is evidence the arrests and charges are ‘politically motivated’. There is a campaign to arrest soldiers and police officers allegedly associated with the previous government, the families say.
“In this campaign, the deaths of late Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko and Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng have been given a priority and much publicity by the LMPS with a heavy dose of political support from the government and different structures of political parties forming this coalition government.”
They say they are surprised that the government has been quick to pursue those accused of those crimes but seems reluctant to treat recent cases of murder with urgency.
They point to more than 30 cases of murder they allege were committed by police officers who remain in their jobs.
“What is most difficult if not impossible to understand is that all the suspects in these killings are well-known police officers who are continuing to carry out their duties within the LMPS ranks as if nothing had happened.”

“It is our understanding that the Commissioner of Police, together with the suspected Police Officers would be arrested and charged with murder, just like it has happened with Lt. General Kamoli. Failure to do so, gives the impression that there is a merit that is used as a barometer by the LMPS to arrest suspects and to investigate the deaths of citizens.”
That the police officers and the commissioner have not been arrested indicates that the government is selectively applying the law.

“Why is it that criminal cases involving supporters of this government are not investigated? “Some members of LDF, whom some deserted while others went into hiding with politicians after they were charged with mutiny, have been pardoned, compensated, reinstated and promoted without regard to LDF Act and other laws in the country.”
The families question why the death of Lipolelo Thabane, the slain wife of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, has not been investigated.
They claim that they were reliably informed that their relatives have been tortured to confess and incriminate themselves. This ill-treatment, they say, has continued as the soldiers and police officers endure years in detention while the state deliberately delays their trials.

The result, the families claim, is that they are incurring huge legal costs that eat into family incomes.
“The accused have been denied their constitutional right to be released on bail on very vague reasons such as that the complainants are afraid of them and that their exceptional circumstances are not exceptional circumstances.”

“The longer the accused persons stay in prison, the more their constitutional rights are being violated such as the right to presumption of innocence and right to a fair hearing. They are being incarcerated as if they have already been found guilty.”
The families also raise concerns about the decision to appoint foreign judges to preside over the case. They say there is nothing peculiar about murder and attempted cases to warrant the appointment of foreign judges.

“The insistence of the government to appoint foreign judges makes us believe that its intentions are sinister as we fail to find a particular reason for the need to have foreign judges.”
“Judging from the government’s insistence that there be foreign judges to preside over these cases, we are of the opinion that these judges are intended to deliver sentences that are preferred by the government over the accused and the interests of justice.”

They also question the impartiality of Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase whose husband they claim has a checkered past because of his brushes with the law.
They say her husband was involved in the 2007 political disturbances.
And some of the soldiers “were working in the Military Intelligence and Special Forces were the ones that stopped that insurgency, high treason and recovered those weapons from the Acting Chief Justice’s home”.

Her husband is one of those accused of leading alleged attacks on ministers’ homes. He fled to South Africa where he remained for years before he was allowed back home in 2012 when Thabane led the first coalition to power. The families ask why the government did not establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the death of Lt General Khoantle Motsomotso, Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

They say instead of launching an investigation “a major and two captains who were not present when the shooting happened were arrested and charged with murder and mutiny”.
They also demand to know why Major General Ramanka Mokaloba and Major General Lineo Poopa have not been charged despite being in the military’s top brass between 2014 and 2017 when the soldiers are accused of committing the crimes.

“If Lt Gen Kamoli is being charged for crimes committed by soldiers during that time, then it follows that those who were in leadership with him should be charged as well,” says the families.
Major General Mokaloba, they allege, was in charge of military operations but has now turned state witness instead of being charged.
“There has not been anywhere in the world where a senior gives commands to which the junior follows and obeys and later on, that junior is charged and the senior becomes a state witness.”
They claim that Major General Poopa was the chief of staff between 2014 and 2017 but has become a state witness and has been given a diplomatic post instead of being charged.

The families say they are worried that the soldiers and policemen will not get fair trials and will remain in custody while the government looks for foreign judges.
They say while in custody their rights are being violated as they are tortured and denied visitation rights.
They want international organisations to investigate allegations that:

l The accused have been tortured

l They have been treated inhumanely

l They have been denied bail. Recently their right to bail is being attached a condition that their bail would not be opposed if they turn into state witnesses

l They are denied their freedom of association

l They are being unnecessarily denied the freedom of liberty and movement

l Their right to family life is being unnecessarily tampered with

l Their right to a fair hearing is also being tampered with.

Staff Reporter

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Lawyer in trouble



A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.

It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.

Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.

Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.

According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.

The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.

During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.

His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.

Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.

He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.

Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.

Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.

Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.

Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.

He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.

The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Trio in court for killing ‘witches’



THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.

Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.

They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.

The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.

Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.

Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.

He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.

“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.

He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.

They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.

Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.

He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.

Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.

He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.

Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.

He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.

“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.

He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.

Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.

The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.

Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.

“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.

“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.

He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.

Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.

He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.

The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.

“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.

Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.

He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.

Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.

He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.

“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”

He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.

Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.

He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.

Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.

“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.

The case continues.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Opposition fights back



THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.

Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.

But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.

The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.

Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.

Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.

It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.

The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.

The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.

“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.

“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”

“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.

The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.

“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.

He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.

“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.

“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”

He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.

“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.

Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.

“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.

Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.

“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.

“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”

The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.

The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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