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The big cover-up



IT is a sad story that vividly illustrates the extent to which some of Lesotho’s police officers are willing to go to cover up for the shocking acts of brutality done by their colleagues in the course of duty.

When pressed to disclose what happened, the police then cook up a long story to cover up for their misdeeds.
That is what happened to Leloko Makutoane after he died under dubious circumstances at the hands of the police in Quthing in 2019.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, ordered an inquest to establish how Makutoane had died after she was handed a case in which she felt a huge cover-up.

It was only during the inquest that the police eventually brought their colleagues for questioning on how the suspect had died at their hands.
The story is based on the inquest notes compiled by Makutoane’s brother, Lepolesa Makutoane.

The shocking cover-up was on full display during the inquest which raised the eyebrows of Magistrate Palesa Rantara.

The magistrate then ordered a full and proper investigation on what happened. She also ordered that the five police officers who arrested Makutoane be charged with murder.

Makutoane was arrested on September 1, 2019 while sleeping in his house.

Magistrate Rantara heard during the inquest that Makutoane’s body was full of bruised and his skull had been fragmented. There was also a wound above the eye and his arm was broken.

The police’s explanation was that Makutoane was not well handcuffed, which enabled him to run away and during the chase in the darkness he fell into a pool of water where he suffocated and died.

However, an autopsy report by Dr Lefatle Phakoana, a government’s post mortem examiner, refers to the police’s report saying “the deceased was assaulted and died on the spot”.

Dr Phakoana, according to the finding of Magistrate Rantara, had been given an impression that it was the village crime prevention group (mahokela) who had killed Makutoane.

Family members who had attended the post mortem at the Lesotho Funeral Services mortuary told the magistrate that they heard Dr Phakoana saying “mahokela were so violent that they broke the man’s skull and his ribs” in a conversation with an official at the mortuary.

However, when the family pressed for an explanation of the autopsy report they were showed where Dr Phakoana referred to the police’s report to the doctor.
But during the inquest it became clear that Makutoane could have been killed by the police.

Magistrate Rantara heard that Makutoane, who was from Ha-Leihloana in Quthing district, was wanted by the police in connection with arson and attempted murder cases in another village.

Makutoane, who was working in South Africa, had come home for a visit on the night of his murder and was sleeping in his house with his three minor children when the police raided him.

The police, Magistrate Rantara heard, burst into the house where Makutoane’s three children were sleeping on the floor and one of the officers kicked a child who tried raising his head to see what was happening.

Makutoane who was sleeping only in his underwear, also tried asking what was happening and the police responded curtly asking him if he had forgotten what he had done.

One of the children told the magistrate that a police officer said they were going to break their father’s arms, as they tried to drag him out still naked in a hurry.

The other officer stopped his colleague saying they should dress him up, which they did while others rummaged the wardrobe saying they were looking for a gun, which they did not find.

At the time, Magistrate Rantara heard, Makutoane was crying loudly saying he was being abducted but the police managed to convince him that they were police officers who had come to arrest him.

The children alerted their relatives that their father had just been taken and they in turn told the village headman, Chief Mokheseng Ntho, who organised his men to follow Makutoane on suspicion that he had been abducted.

Procedurally the police notify the village chief when they enter his area to arrest any of his subjects, as a chief is the top-most authority.

Chief Ntho told Magistrate Rantara that he did not find where Makutoane had been taken until his aunt told one of his subjects that he heard a man, who is not a policeman, telling him that he had accompanied the police to Ha-Leihloana.

The man, identified only as Xolani, not knowing that the woman was related to Makutoane allegedly told her that he had died, only getting surprised when the woman raised a voice asking why they had killed her child.

Magistrate Rantara also heard that there was another man who was not a police officer, called Sethape, who was also present Makutoane’s arrest.

The Makutoane family told Magistrate Rantara that the police were in the company of banna ba likobo, as the violent famo gangsters are referred to, when they raided Makutoane’s home.

Chief Ntho, after hearing that his subject had been taken by the police, called the local police boss in search of him and later took his men to the police station where he was not immediately told that Makutoane was dead.

A police officer he found only said he was not there.

It was later when he heard from relatives who were inquisitive that Makutoane was dead and that he had been taken to the mortuary.

Magistrate Rantara heard that the mortuary official was shown the bruised corpse at a holding cell door at the police station and one of the police officers said: “Do you see what happens to a person who fights against the police?”

She also heard that the police who had gone to arrest Makutoane, who included traffic cops, travelled in a private car belonging to a villager.

Also when they carried the lifeless body of Makutoane they asked the villager to help with a van.

That villager, the magistrate heard, was heard saying a person he had carried had been so battered that he wondered whether he would live.

The police officer told Magistrate Rantara that after they left Makutoane’s home, the deceased was handcuffed with his hands at the back.

The officers told the magistrate that on the way to the police station, Makutoane managed to run away because the handcuffs were not properly locked and they gave chase in the darkness.

Makutoane, the police say, fell into a body of water and drowned and they did not see him until at dawn when they pulled him out of the water.

They told the magistrate that they sought the van from one of the villagers with the intention to take him to hospital but never explained why they took him to the police station instead.

The family told the magistrate that for the police to take action with a semblance of investigation they had to go to the police headquarters to ask for help.

Lepolesa Makutoane, the victim’s brother, said after they obtained the post mortem report they went to the police headquarters where they met Assistant Police Commissioner Motlatsi Mapola.

Lepolesa said ACP Mapola called the Quthing police commander, with his phone put on loud speaker, and asked him what happened.

The answer was that “these people have done sh*t, they went there to arrest a person accompanied by famo gangsters. They threw him into a river, assaulted him, stuffed him into the boot of a Honda Fit and then took him out and put him in a van. They shattered his head”.

The Quthing police then dispatched investigators whom Magistrate Rantara found that “did not perform duties with their conscience” and she directed that they should re-do their work properly.

She found that a detective who went to Ha-Leihloana to investigate the murder went there without knowing the area well and there was nobody to guide him on where the police who had gone to arrest Makutoane went.

The detective told the magistrate that “I was examining a wide area” when asked what exactly he was looking for.

“I was reconstructing the crime scene,” he said.

Another top cop who was responsible for the arrest of Makutoane gave an account that Magistrate Rantara found wanting.

Even after the inquest, which was completed earlier this year, no one among the suspected police officers has been arrested and charged with murder.

The police management only suspended five police officers in 2019 after they killed Makutoane pending investigations.

Caswell Tlali

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MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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