State witness backs Kamoli

State witness backs Kamoli

MASERU – THE murder trial of Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli got off to a bizarre start when a state witness told the court that the former army commander did not order the operation that led to Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao’s killing in 2015.

Colonel Thato Phaila’s testimony seemingly exonerating Lt Gen Kamoli appears to have turned the tables on the prosecution which, until then, considered him a crucial witness to prove its case.
The prosecution alleges that Lt Gen Kamoli, who has been in remand prison for nearly four years, played a central role in the military operation that killed Lt Gen Mahao.

Its murder charge against Lt Gen Kamoli is based on the allegation that he ordered the operation.
But yesterday Colonel Phaila told a completely different story, insisting that Lt Gen Kamoli was not there when the operation was planned and approved.
“Commander Kamoli was not even there when the operation began,” Colonel Phaila said, adding that the operation was ordered by the late Deputy Commander Khoantle Motšomotšo, who later succeeded Lt Gen Kamoli as the commander.

He told the court that he knows this because Lt Gen Motšomotšo, to whom he reported, informed him about Lt Gen Mahao’s impending arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny. Colonel Phaila said the order to arrest Lt Gen Mahao and other soldiers allegedly involved in the mutiny came from Inspector General Ramanka Mokaloba, who was then a brigadier.
“I was not part of the arrest team but where necessary my task was to advise on how to arrest senior officers,” Colonel Phaila said.

He said his job was to give daily reports to Lt Gen Motšomotšo who was then a major general and Lt Gen Kamoli’s deputy.
Lance Corporal Jobo was the first soldier to be arrested and gave out the names of his alleged accomplices.
“I always visited the interrogation room because that’s how I got new information.” Colonel Phaila said he did not know that Lt Gen Mahao was to be arrested until he visited the interrogation room that day.
“That’s when I was told that Mahao was to be arrested.”

“I told (the then Captain Tefo) Hashatsi to wait as I had to go to the Deputy Commander’s office to inform him. When I arrived there, Motšomotšo was with Major General Lineo Poopa”.
“I informed them that the arrest team was going to arrest Mahao and asked how they thought it should be done. They however said they would work on it.”

He said he did not advise the arresting team on how to arrest Lt Gen Mahao because it had already left when he came from Lt Gen Motšomotšo’s office.
Colonel Phaila said he was with Colonel Tumo Lekhooa later that afternoon when Captain Hashatsi (later promoted to colonel) told him that Lt Gen Mahao had resisted arrest and Sergeant Haleokoe Makara had shot him. Sergeant Makara is the second accused in the murder case.

He said he asked Colonel Hashatsi about Lt Gen Mahao’s condition and ordered that he be rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
He said he immediately informed Lt Gen Motšomotšo and accompanied him to Lt Gen Kamoli’s office to break the news.
Colonel Phaila said Lt Gen Kamoli “was shocked” by the news.
“From where he was standing, he could even hit us with a stick,” he said.

He said Lt Gen Kamoli clasped his hands and said it was unfortunate.
Back at the operation room, Colonel Hashatsi told him that “Mahao resisted arrest, pulled out his 9mm gun and that’s when Makara shot towards him”.
During cross-examination Sergeant Makara told the court, through his lawyer, that he shot Lt Gen Mahao by accident.

He said he saw Lt Gen Mahao cocking his gun and pointing it at Colonel Hashatsi who was standing in front of his car.
Meanwhile, Colonel Phaila told the court that it is unfair that civilians who allegedly planned the mutiny with soldiers were not arrested.
He said former Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele ’Maseribane, and former police boss, Khothatso Tšooana, should have been arrested.

Colonel Phaila said the plan was to arrest them shortly after Lt Gen Mahao but his death thwarted the plan. He pleaded with the court to protect him from soldiers allegedly stalking him.
His stalkers, he alleged, are soldiers who were part of the mutiny against Lt Gen Kamoli. He said in trying to make them lose his track he asked for a lift from Lt Gen Kamoli’s wife who dropped him off near the Lesotho Correctional Service.

Prosecutor Advocate Shaun Abrahams zeroed in on that chance meeting between Colonel Phaila and Lt Gen Kamoli’s wife.
Advocate Abrahams asked questions that suggested Colonel Phaila slept at Lt Gen Kamoli’s home and that the former commander’s wife brought him lunch.
Colonel Phaila took offence to that suggestion. Lt General Kamoli is charged together with eight other soldiers for Lt Gen Mahao’s murder.
Colonel Phaila will continue to be on the stand for the next few days as he is cross-examined by lawyers representing his co-accused.

Malimpho Majoro

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