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Mochoboroane in the dock

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MASERU – Selibe Mochoboroane says he ordered all radio stations to be switched off on the night of August 30, 2014 when the army raided the police headquarters in Maseru.
Mochoboroane, who was the Minister of Communications then, says in an affidavit that he was privy to sensitive information which even the then Prime Minister did not have.

He was referring to an operation the army undertook on the night of August 30, 2014 when it attacked the State House and police stations in Maseru.
Mochoboroane appeared in court on Monday where he was charged with treason together with former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and other soldiers.

Also charged is Mothetjoa Metsing, the leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.
Mochoboroane told the High Court that the late army officer, Brigadier Bulane Sechele, had told him that he “should not inform anyone about” the operation.

“Those who needed to be informed, particularly the coalition partners (would) be informed immediately after the operation,” Mochoboroane said in the affidavit.

“When I asked him who he was referring to, he stated that he was referring to the coalition partners including the Prime Minister,” he said.
“As a sitting minister and citizen of Lesotho I felt obliged to assist the military when it was conducting a sensitive security operation (and) I duly obliged and spoke to the technocrats about the switching off of the radio stations.”

He said Sechele had told him that the security operation was so sensitive that it could not be revealed before it was carried out as that would cause public alarm and pandemonium.
“In the circumstances he urged me to ask the technocrats at the Lesotho National Broadcasting Service to switch off all radio stations between the hours of 11pm or (soon) thereafter and 2am on the 29th to the 30th August 2014,” he said.

Mochoboroane was Communications Minister then under the Thomas Thabane-led coalition government of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the LCD and the Basotho National Party (BNP).
He was the spokesman for the LCD, which he later dumped when his relations with Metsing soured and formed the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) which he is now leading.

Mochoboroane defends the raid of the police stations saying the army was within its legal obligation to prevent a crime which some police officers were about to commit.

He said the army and the police had credible information that rogue elements within the police were about to illegally arm a group of the ABC youths calling itself Under the Tree Association (UTTA) to attack LCD members who were to embark on a protest march the following day.

“Undoubtedly the statements (of witnesses) reflect that the army was on an operation whose object was to ensure prevention of internal terrorism, crime and internal disorder as set out in Section 5 of the LDF Act,” he said.
He also referred to a letter by Mofokeng Kolo, the then Maseru Urban police commander, in which he acknowledged “the intelligence gathered as well as our investigations that reveal that there are cliques from the members of the public, who have planned to attack members of the public who would be participating in the march/procession”.

He said if there was credible information available to the police and the army had similar information “it is difficult to say this was a mere coincidence”.
“The inference is irresistible that the intelligence information available to the army was indeed accurate,” he said.

“A situation where members of the police service were to arm members of the public, to enable the latter to launch an attack on other members of the public, (was) both criminal and an act of terrorism,” he said.
On Monday, Mochoboroane escaped being sent to jail by a whisker because of a legal technicality.

His co-accused Metsing did not appear in court and a warrant for his arrest has since been issued.
Facing charges of treason, murder and attempted murder Mochoboroane would, under normal circumstances, be remanded in custody but Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane spared him jail temporarily to address a legal technicality.

Justice Sakoane said he should not have read the indictment to Mochoboroane and others before being served with all the witness statements.

Justice Sakoane said he was told by Mochoboroane’s lawyer, Advocate Motiea Teele KC, that he has not been served with witnesses’ statements and as a result he was not ready to proceed with the case.
Without the witnesses’ statements it would be difficult for the lawyer to decide how to advise his client on whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
Mochoboroane was supposed to plead before the judge on Monday, after which he would be remanded in custody if his bail application failed.

Advocate Teele said procedurally, he should have been served with all the witnesses’ statements so that he could be in a position to advise his client on how to plead.
Advocate Teele raised this issue after Mochoboroane was joined by Kamoli and four others and were asked to plead.
“My client is in no position to plead as he was not served with all the witnesses’ statements,” Advocate Teele said.

Justice Sakoane agreed and explained that it was wrong for the crown to have wanted to continue with the case yet they did not serve the defence lawyers with all the witnesses’ statements.
“I had assumed that defence lawyers were served with witnesses’ statements,” Justice Sakoane said.

“Why was I not told before I read the indictment to Mochoboroane and others that the statements were not served because this indictment shouldn’t have been read?” he said.
He said to ensure a fair trial, all witnesses’ statements “should be served to the defence lawyers so that they could prepare and advise their clients accordingly”.

“The defence is not prepared so we have to adjourn to another day so that he could prepare with his client on these charges,” he said.
“Today I expected the accused persons to plead on the charges they are faced with. How could that happen when they were not served?” he said.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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