FORMER army commander Tlali Kamoli has denied involvement in the 25 June 2015 murder of army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao.
His lawyer, Letuka Molati, this week told the High Court that he had only been charged because former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government “wanted” his head.
Adv Molati made the allegations while cross-examining a state witness, Lance Corporal Mokete Halahala.
Lance Corporal Halahala is the first witness in the trial of Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Kamoli and eight other soldiers accused of murdering Lt-Gen Mahao.
His co-accused are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporals Motšoane Machai, Marasi ‘Moleli, Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Tšitso Ramoholi.
Lance Corporal Halahala has been testifying since the trial started on 3 June 2021. He has testified that he was part of the team of soldiers who arrested the 23 soldiers who were accused of mutiny against the command of Lt-Gen Kamoli in 2015. He also testified that he spied on Lt-Gen Mahao in the period leading up to his murder by fellow soldiers at his farm in Mokema, Maseru on 25 June 2015.
Although he has not implicated Lt-Gen Kamoli in the murder, Lance Corporal Halahala has however, testified that he and the other accused soldiers who participated in the arrest of the mutiny suspects and killing of Lt-Gen Mahao were subsequently rewarded with promotions by Lt-Gen Kamoli.
This week, Adv Molati put it to Lance Corporal Halahala that Lt-Gen Kamoli was not involved in the arrests and ultimate killing of Lt-Gen Kamoli.
He said that Lt-Gen Kamoli had been on leave from 20 November 2014 and only resumed duties on 27 May 2015, less than a month before Lt-Gen Mahao’s death. He said the late Khoantle Motšomotšo, who succeeded Lt-Gen Kamoli as army commander in December 2016, was commande4d the army in an acting capacity during Lt-Gen Kamoli’s absence.
Adv Molati said even after Lt-Gen Kamoli had returned to work, he was not directly involved in the operations to arrest the suspected mutineers. He only received reports of the operations and of Lt-Gen Mahao’s death from those in charge of the operations, Adv Molati said.
He said Major General Lineo Poopa, who is now ambassador to Malaysia, was in charge of the arrests of the mutiny suspects.
He also alleged that Major Generals Poopa, Motšomotšo and Major Gen Ramanka Mokaloba had planned the arrests of the mutiny suspects in early 2015. He said Lt-Gen Mahao was also one of the mutiny suspects.
Both Major Generals Poopa and Mokaloba have been enlisted as state witnesses and they will also testify in the murder trial.
“The top owners of the mission to arrest the mutiny suspects were Motšomotšo, Poopa and Mokaloba,” Adv Molati said.
“Poopa is going to come before this court and say that the operation to go to Mokema and arrest Mahao was a legal transaction of the LDF while Mokaloba will say there was no intention to kill any soldier but to charge them before the military court.
“Motšomotšo, Poopa and the officers who were immediately below them knew from the date of the arrest of the first mutiny suspect, that Mahao was also a suspect. The person who was in charge of arresting the mutineers was Poopa. He signed the remand warrants for the arrested mutineers.
“Lieutenant Colonel Phaila was the mission commander. He was liaising with Mokaloba and reporting to Poopa and Motšomotšo.
“Accused nine (Lt-Gen Kamoli) is going to say that he only received reports (of the mission) when Mahao had passed on. According to those reports, there was never any intention to kill any soldier. He is going to say he was not the commander of the mission and he had nothing to do with the problems which occurred then,” Adv Molati said.
Lance Corporal Halahala said he could not comment Adv Molati’s allegations because he did not know about them.
“Those issues are way above my rank and there is no way I could have known about them,” Lance Corporal Halahala said.
Adv Molati then claimed the mutiny cases never made it to court and the suspects were rewarded in order to conceal the evidence which implicated politicians such as former Basotho National Party leader and current Small Business development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister, Thesele ‘Maseribane.
“Accused nine (Lt-Gen Kamoli) is going to say that the reports he received indicated that Col (now LDF deputy commander Major Gen Matela) Matobakele, Lt Col Matlali, Lt Col Mohale and one Thesele ‘Maseribane fled to South Africa when mutiny arrests were ongoing.
“The case of 23 mutineers who were arrested was in the court martial but it never reached the stage where people like you (Halahala) who did the arrests could testify. More than 99 percent of the mutiny suspects were reinstated into the LDF by the 2017 government. Matobakele and Poqa Motoa are serving in the LDF although they are post retirement age. After being reinstated, the mutiny suspects were promoted.
“Those people who were involved in mutiny with politicians were given work beyond retirement age in order to conceal evidence that the court needs to know. The government has hidden from these accused persons, the investigation information that led to the arrests of mutiny suspects.”
Twenty-three LDF officers were arrested in 2015 on allegations of mutiny. It had been said that Lt-Gen Mahao was also supposed to be arrested but he was gunned down for allegedly resisting arrest. The allegations were later dismissed as false by the 2016 Justice Mphaphi Phumaphi-led SADC Commission of Inquiry. The commission instead recommended the prosecution of all those involved in Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder.
The alleged mutineers were accused of planning to kill Lt-Gen Kamoli, Major Gen Mokaloba and Captain Nyakane. Adv Molati put it to Lance Corporal Halahala that these deaths were planned during secret meetings which Chief ‘Maseribane attended.
“The meetings where the killings of senior LDF officers were planned in the presence of civilians. There was one Quthing man called Hloloane who also has a residence in Ha-Leqele near the barracks who hosted these meetings which Chief ‘Maseribane attended.
“Lt-Gen Tlali Kennedy Kamoli is going to say that Chief ‘Maseribane said under oath that Hloloane was dead yet he was lying. These are some of the reasons the government doesn’t want us to see contents of the entire recordings of the Phumaphi Commission inquiry,” Adv Molati said.
Lance Corporal Halahala said he could not comment on issues involving Chief ‘Maseribane because he was his chief back home in Mt Moorosi, Quthing.
Adv Molati then said Lt-Gen Kamoli was arrested in 2017 and interviewed by 20 police officers for a week. The officers told him that there was no evidence linking him to Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder, Adv Molati said.
He said the officers told Lt-Gen Kamoli that he was only being charged with Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder because the Thabane-led government wanted his head.
“Accused nine (Kamoli) will say that he was arrested by a Superintendent Likhama and interviewed by more than 20 police officers for a week. Those officers told him that he was not going to be charged with the murder of Mahao because he had played no role in his death.
“But he spent 2017 and 2018 in prison and he was only charged with Mahao’s murder in 2019. The officers who had interviewed him told him he was only being charged because the government of the day wanted his head.
“You (Lance Corporal Halahala) never mentioned Kamoli in your evidence. The docket has more than 70 witness statements and none of them talk about Kamoli. Lt-Gen Tlali Kennedy Kamoli is only put in prison for murder of Mahao for fun,” Adv Molati said.
After his submissions, Judge Charles Hungwe, adjourned proceedings to 5 July 2021.