HIGH profile personalities placed on a “hit list” that has been circulating on social media networks say they are fearing for their lives and were now cautious about their movements.
Top on the hit list, which has gone viral on WhatsApp and Facebook, are the five lawyers representing 22 soldiers detained at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison. The lawyers are Advocates King’s Counsel Haae Phoofolo, Christopher Lephuthing, Koili Ndebele as well as Attorneys Khotso Nthontho and Tumisang Mosotho.
The list also includes National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao, Basotho National Party (BNP) deputy leader Joang Molapo and party spokesperson Machesetsa Mofomobe. Former Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) commissioner Khothatso Tšooana is also on the list as well as LMPS Deputy Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, Maseru businessman Elias Motlomelo and radio presenter Puseletso Ramokhethi.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday, Advocate Phoofolo said he saw the list and immediately reported the matter to the police.
“In light of what happened after the previous hit list was circulated, I am taking the issue very seriously and went to the extent of reporting the matter to the police,” he said.
“If you remember sometime in March and April this year, the issue of hit lists was also trending on Facebook. In May this year, prominent businessman Thabiso Tšosane, who was on the list, was killed. A month later, former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao, was also killed.”
Asked if he knew where list came from, Advocate Phoofolo said: “I really don’t know its origins or whether it is authentic. However, I have to admit that the list has made me more cautious about my movements and concerned about my safety.
“I have been uneasy since the day I heard about it. In my opinion, this threat could not have emanated from the police or the army but from hired assassins. This is because I have seen a number of private vehicles without registration numbers making suspicious movements near my residence in the evenings.”
The former Justice, Law and Constitutional Affairs said he was still puzzled by his inclusion on the list since he did not have “any arguments and disagreements with anybody”.
“I can only speculate that it might be because I represent detained army officers accused of mutiny and the family of Lt Gen Mahao or because I confronted the SADC Commission of Inquiry chairperson (Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi) after my clients were unable to appear before the commission to testify over the alleged mutiny plot,” opined Advocate Phoofolo.
“The threat cannot be ignored, but it must be clear to everyone that we are just doing our job as the lawyers representing the detained soldiers. We will continue to do our best, with or without the threats. We can’t stop working because of victimisation.”
Advocate Ndebele also confirmed seeing the list yesterday, adding that he was very concerned about his safety.
“I can’t take any hit list lightly whether it is true or not, because its authenticity might be proved when someone is dead,” he said.
“My movements are now limited because I have to be careful about everybody that is around me. I have not yet reported the matter to the police, but if I see anything suspicious I will definitely act on it.”
Advocate Ndebele said he was recently concerned after a “suspicious looking” man came to his Maseru home looking for work to landscape the garden.
“I was not comfortable with the appearance of the man because he was wearing new boots usually worn by disciplined force officers and was very clean even though he was wearing worn-out clothes,” he said.
“I was not sure if he was genuinely looking for a job or if he wanted to spy on me.”
Advocate Lephuthing also confirmed seeing the hit list, which he said had left him “depressed”.
“I don’t have much to say about the hit list despite the fact that I saw my name and those of my colleagues. I have not reported the matter to the police but only alerted my colleagues about it,” he said.
“We have not discussed the matter and are yet to ascertain the import of the list to our lives. Every time the issue of a hit list arises, I get so depressed because I don’t even know where it comes from.”
On his part, Advocate Nthontho curtly told the Lesotho Times he would soon report the matter to the police adding that: “There is nothing much I can tell you about the hit list. I am just careful about my movements and everything that happens around me.”
Prof Mahao was equally as brief, saying: “I am aware of the hit list and the fact that my name is appearing on it. But I am not giving interviews on that issue. However, I am taking the matter very seriously.”
Mr Motlomelo, who was awarded M450 000 as compensation for torture at the hands of army officers in 2007 earlier this month, said he was taking the hit list seriously because he came to know about it through the police.
“I was in Bloemfontein, South Africa last weekend when I received several phone calls from members of the police’s Special Operations Unit telling me that my name was on a hit list. I can’t say the names of police officers who alerted me to protect their identities, but I was not surprised since this is not the first time my name has appeared on such a list,” he said.
“I don’t want to get into the details of previous hit lists, but my informants tell me some people were not happy that I was granted that M450 000 for the torture I was subjected to in 2007.”
Mr Mofomobe said he was also concerned about featuring on the list, adding that he could not bank on the police to protect him.
“I am concerned about my safety because we have seen people on previous hit lists being killed. I have since updated my funeral scheme and insurance subscriptions,” he said.
“Even if they can succeed in killing me, at least Basotho would be aware that the coalition government protects these people and does not stand for justice and peace.”
On whether he would report the issue to the police, Mr Mofomobe said: “A lot of people have been murdered and the police have failed to arrest the suspects. It is pointless to report these threats to the police when we already know that nothing will be done to protect our lives.”
Chief Molapo echoed similar sentiments, saying he had not bothered to report the issue to the police because “it is not necessary”.
“I am aware that I am the last person on the list and am taking it seriously to some extent. I have not reported the issue to the police because if the owner of that list is serious about killing me, he will still do so regardless,” he said.
“I think the owner of the hit list thinks I will run away and claim that there are threats to my life. I am not scared and will not run away because these are just tactics of senseless people.”
Also contacted for comment last night, police spokesperson, Senior Inspector Clifford Molefe said he was unaware of the hit list since the matter had not been reported to his office.
“I am not saying that the hit list does not exist, but that the police’s Public Relations department is yet to receive such information if it has been reported. At this moment, I have not seen such a report and I promise to make a follow up,” Snr Insp Molefe said.
Efforts to get in touch with Mr Tšooana, Ms Ramokhethi, DCP Molibeli and Advocate Mosotho were fruitless yesterday at the time of going to press.