Forensic experts appointed by the Southern African Development (SADC) to probe circumstances surrounding Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao’s death last month, flew into the country yesterday and visited the scene of the former army boss’ shooting in Mokema to “reconstruct what could have happened”.
The experts, according to impeccable police sources, also inspected Brigadier Mahao’s truck in which he was shot, the military vehicle which carried him away from the crime scene, as well as the firearms used in the killing.
According to one of the police sources who formed part of the investigating team, the forensic experts were provided by Mozambique and Namibia, and were accompanied by a huge entourage from Pretoria, South Africa.
Some members of the Mahao family were also present when the experts visited the scene of the former LDF commander’s death, the source added.
Brigadier Mahao, who was demoted as army commander in May this year after government argued his appointment and promotion to Lieutenant General in August 2014 had been unlawful, was shot by LDF members on the afternoon of 25 June 2015 just outside his Mokema farm. Government says he was resisting arrest for alleged mutiny when he was gunned down by his colleagues. The family has since denied this version of the shooting and insist it was a deliberate assassination.
“Two forensic experts dispatched by SADC visited the scene of death, closely inspecting the area as they reconstructed what could have happened based on the evidence provided,” the source said.
“They were using complex instruments to draw a picture of what could have transpired. They also inspected the deceased’s truck in which he was shot.”
The source added following the examination of the truck and scene of the Brigadier’s death, the team proceeded to Makoanyane Military Barracks “for further inspection”.
“The car that was used to rush the deceased to Makoanyane Military Hospital, as well as the weapons used, were also inspected by the same team today,” the police source said. However, it was not immediately clear if the experts managed to finish their business yesterday and return to Pretoria or they are still in the country.
Contacted for comment, the deceased’s eldest brother, National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice-Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao, confirmed that the two forensic investigators “accompanied by 10 or so other people”, were in Lesotho yesterday and indeed visited the scene of death in Mokema accompanied by some members of the family.
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“They inspected the deceased’s car, and visited the scene of death with about 10 people or so. But I was not there as I had to attend my brother’s memorial service today,” Prof Mahao said.
“I am not sure what happened thereafter, apart from the fact that I learnt they would also visit the barracks to inspect the car that the deceased was supposedly rushed to hospital in after he was shot.”
According to Prof Mahao, the findings of the forensic investigators would be compiled together with those of pathologists who conducted an autopsy on the late soldier’s body. The combined report would then be submitted to SADC, he added.
Ronnie Mamoepa—spokesperson for SADC Facilitator to Lesotho Cyril Ramaphosa—told the Lesotho Times yesterday: “It was agreed at last Friday’s SADC Extraordinary Double-Troika Summit that while South Africa was to assign two pathologists to perform a post-mortem on Brigadier Mahao, Namibia and Zimbabwe would provide the forensic experts.
“But I am not in a position to say whether or not those were the same experts. Please call the SADC Headquarters in Botswana to establish if they are the same people,” Mr Mamoepa said.
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Press Attaché, Motumi Ralejoe, was equally unhelpful and told the Lesotho Times he could not comment because he had not been “briefed” about it.
However, the Lesotho Times understands the premier met with King Letsie III yesterday afternoon and used his weekly Wednesday briefing to inform His Majesty of the presence of the forensic experts in the country, in addition to cabinet business of this week.
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Times was reliably informed by a member of the Mahao family who sought anonymity, that during last Friday’s post-mortem in Bloemfontein, only three pathologists—two provided by the South African government and the other by the deceased’s family—were allowed to perform the procedure on the slain soldier, while the fourth pathologist from government was “disqualified from taking part”.
“The government pathologist was disqualified from taking part in the performance of the post-mortem, because he did not have the required credentials. However, he was allowed to look on as the procedure was carried out by the other three pathologists,” the family member said.