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The big cover-up

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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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Police hunt former minister

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THE police have launched a hunt for former police minister, Lepota Sekola, who is suspected of involvement in stock theft.
Police want to arrest Sekola in connection with two cattle carcasses that were found at his grandfather’s funeral in Borokhoaneng three weeks ago.

During the initial interview, Sekola had insisted that the cows belonged to his late grandfather who had kept them in South Africa for better pastures.

The police didn’t arrest him at that time because investigations were still in the early stages. Further investigations have however led the police to believe that the animals were stolen from South Africa.

But when they were ready for the arrest, Sekola could not be found at his home or on his phone.

Police say Sekola will be charged with unlawful possession and illegal importation of two cows from South Africa.

The National Stock Theft Coordinator, Senior Superintendent Mapesela Klaass, told thepost last night that they “have completed investigations but he (Sekola) is nowhere to be seen”.

“We cannot get him on his mobile phones,” S/Supt Klaass said, adding that the police have been “visiting his home but he is not there”.

“His family members are aware that we are looking for him,” he said.

S/Supt Klaass said they are continuing with their search and as soon as they find him, they are going to drag him to the courts.

He said the police suspect the cows were brought from South Africa to be slaughtered for Sekola’s grandfather’s funeral.

Police sources told thepost that one of the cows had new branding while another had nothing. Both had holes on the ears that signalled that they used to have ear tags.

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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Mphaka barred from ABC deputy’s race

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THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has barred former Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and three others from contesting for the deputy leader’s position at an elective conference set for this week.
The three are Kefeletsoe Mojela, Katleho Molelle, and Lekhetho Mosito.

Mosito was an MP who was appointed Defence Minister for a day and removed the following day during Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s premiership.
The elective conference is set to be held at the Leqele High School hall this weekend.

A circular from the ABC said the three did not qualify to enter the race because they had not held any positions in the party’s committees.

The decision to bar the three is reminiscent of the same tactics that saw former leader Thomas Thabane block Professor Nqosa Mahao from contesting for the party’s deputy leader’s position.
Professor Mahao subsequently walked away and formed the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

A weakened ABC has never recovered from that split.

Mphaka and his colleagues were vying for the deputy leader’s position until they were stopped in their tracks by the circular which was issued out on Monday this week.
Dr Pinkie Manamolela is the current deputy leader.

She was plucked from the women’s league to replace Dr Majoro who had resigned from the national executive committee after losing the leadership race to Nkaku Kabi in 2022.

There is a high chance that the four could drag the ABC to court to assert their right to contest. The legal wrangles will likely destabilise the party that is still smarting from a thorough thrashing in general elections held in October 2022.

Mphaka this week told thepost that he will challenge the decision to block him in the courts of law.
“They are crazy people,” Mphaka said.

“I will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to launch an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the decision before Friday this week.”

He complained that it was not clear why the party had decided to kick him out of the race after he spent a lot of time and resources campaigning.

Mphaka said the national executive committee “usually allows members to contest for positions without considering whether they were ever in the constituency committees or not”.

The contenders in the race are former Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, ex-Police MP Lehlohonolo Moramotse, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, and Maseru Star Taxi Association member Sekhonyana Mosenene.

A member of the national executive committee told thepost that “many of us support Mphaka and Kefeletsoe at all costs”.

“We were dismayed when we saw the circular removing the duo from the race,” he said.

He said many ABC members were rallying behind Mphaka because “he has been campaigning even before everyone could start”.

“They know he has lots of followers.”

He said it is unfair that Mosenene has been allowed to run but he has never held any position in any constituency except that he represented his taxi association in the ABC national executive committee.
“Why has he been allowed to contest yet he is just like Mphaka and Kefeletsoe?”

He complained that Sekhonyana, while representing taxi operators in the committee, was eventually made the deputy party spokesman despite not being in any constituency committee after ’Matebatso Doti resigned from the position.

“Mphaka was chosen by the party to lead the 2022 elections campaign teams and develop a party manifesto,” he said.

“He was allowed to do all that without being involved in any party structures.”

The party’s spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa declined to comment.

Dr Manamolela told thepost that “the decision was not made by the party’s national executive committee”.

“I do not want to talk much …but it is not true that the party’s NEC decided to remove Mphaka and Kefeletsoe”.

Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Nkheli Liphoto

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