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Villagers endure hours of police torture



MASERU – SCORES of men in a Mafeteng village notorious for gun-related murders and other crimes claim they were tortured by the police during a raid last week.

A police spokesman dismissed the claim, and described the raid as a success.
But residents of Ha-Raliemere village told thepost what happened last Thursday was more than just a raid.

They said they were bludgeoned, kicked with booted feet, dunked in cold water and forced to roll on the ground.

This was after the police’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) had launched a pre-dawn raid on the village to confiscate guns.

The village is infamous for firearm related murders, rape of elderly women staying alone and violent clashes with people from neighbouring communities.

Nestled on a small hill, the vast village is known for some of its residents who allegedly bully passing travellers.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said claims that cops tortured some local men were false.

He said the police “successfully launched the raid” that resulted in the arrest of three murder suspects who have already been remanded in custody.
“We were also able to confiscate a firearm and a lot of dagga,” Superintendent Mopeli said, without disclosing the amount of dagga recovered in the village.
Locals have a different story though.

They spoke of a pre-dawn raid that left villagers shaken.
“It was a freezing morning when the incident happened,” said a visibly shaken ’Macolise Setaka, a member of Tšana-Talana community council who was speaking on behalf of other villagers.

She said they were woken up by loud and harsh knocks on their doors. At some homes, doors were broken as the police stormed in, said Setaka.

When the villagers, who were trembling with fear, sought answers “we found out that our guests were fierce and belligerent police officers”.

“Once they opened the doors, they forced their way into the houses demanding to talk to the young men and boys,” she said.

Setaka said the police officers ransacked the houses and drove men to the outskirts of the village where they were assaulted.

“It was only a handful of boys and men who escaped the torture,” she said. Those who managed to escape the ordeal had gained advance knowledge of the impending raid and left before police arrived, she said.

Setaka said those who were driven to the outskirts of the village were taken to a big dam where they were forced to strip naked and swim despite the bitterly cold temperatures.

From the water, they were forced to roll on the ground amid beatings with sticks and whips, she said.
“The police told them if they excreted, they would force them to eat their own faeces,” Setaka said.

The men were severely tortured and many were left limping, she said, adding that some were taken to Mafeteng police but later released without charge.
“Some of the victims were able to see doctors and are in a bad state,” she said. She said her son, who was bedridden due to sickness, was also tortured despite his condition.

The villagers said they are planning to take legal action to hold the perpetrators to account but those efforts have stonewalled because they cannot identify the police officers.

“We do not know the police officers facially,” she said, adding that they reported the matter to their area chief.

She said they also informed the Mafeteng police district commander, who said he did not know of the raid.

Meanwhile, the police launched another raid in Thaba-Tšoeu Ha-Mafa and Ha-Raletooane, also searching for guns.

The raids happened in early hours of last Tuesday.
Supt Mopeli said a feud between the two neighbouring villages is now affecting the provision of basic services, with Ha-Raletooane villagers failing to access health services in Ha-Mafa.

He said Ha-Raletooane villagers are also unable to send their children to school, which is located in Ha-Mafa.

“There is a long history of violence between these villages regarding a dispute over boundaries,” Supt Mopeli said.

There have been people who have been gunned down from both villages because of the historical violence.

These include a Lesotho Evangelical Church of Southern Africa (LECSA)’s clergyman gunned down last year on his way to church.

Regarding the police raid, some villagers said some men saw cars entering the area around 1 am. Suspecting the police, one of them alerted others who escaped to a mountain.

Those who failed to escape were assaulted, said villagers.
The raid happened weeks after a taxi operator in his late 40s, Motoaitoai Makhoalinyane from Ha-Raletooane, survived a gun attack in Ha-Mafa when his 15-seater taxi was sprayed with bullets.

Makhoalinyane was heading back home with his assistant after dropping off passengers when the attackers approached his car from a gravel road.
“In the process I also pulled out my gun but I did not fire any shot,” Makhoalinyane said.

Makhoalinyane said he sped off, but his taxi veered off the road and was stuck in the storm drain.

He said the gun-toting attackers then fled away hoping they had accomplished their mission.

“I believe these people thought they had wiped me away,” said Makhoalinyane, who escaped the attack unscathed.

“One of the suspects is already in police custody,” Makhoalinyane said.
He said the police have informed him that the other two suspects are still at large. Supt Mopeli said the suspect has already appeared in court while police are hunting for the other suspects.

Makhoalinyane said he is now jittery about taking passengers to Ha-Mafa because he is afraid that his attackers might bounce back to kill him.
The violence is not good for business, said Makhoalinyane, who is new to the taxi business and owns two vehicles.

One of his taxis was stoned by people in the same area last year, he said.
Police said they are taking action, including going on public relations campaigns.

Supt Mopeli said one such exercise is a joint public gathering planned for today where the Principal Chiefs of Likhoele and Matsieng will talk to the villagers.

He said the District Administrator will also attend the meeting and help iron out differences between the villagers.

Majara Molupe

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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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