Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing says he and his deputy, Tšeliso Mokhosi, have nothing to do with the alleged murder of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng in 2016.
Mr Metsing told his party supporters at a weekend rally in Ha-Lesiamo, Leribe, that the police had not yet found any evidence to link them to PC Khetheng’s murder and that was proof of their innocence.
Mr Metsing also revealed that it was Mr Mokhosi who tipped him of an alleged government plot to kill him in 2017. He subsequently fled into exile until his return last November under SADC mediation to participate in the multi-sector reforms process. The government has however denied plotting to kill him saying Mr Metsing actually fled to avoid prosecution for corruption.
PC Khetheng went missing after he was arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe, on 25 March 2016. His body was exhumed a year later at a mass grave in the Lepereng cemetery on the outskirts of Maseru. The cemetery is a burial site for unclaimed corpses.
Mr Mokhosi, the former defence minister in the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition which ruled from 2015 to 2017, has been charged with PC Khetheng’s murder.
He was charged alongside former police commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa and four other police officers.
The other officers are Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Superintendent Mothibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and Police Constable Haleokoe Taasoane who are all currently on suspension from the police service.
Mr Letsoepa is in exile while the four officers are still detained in the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.
Mr Mokhosi was released on bail on 4 September 2018 and two days later he issued a statement accusing the police of forcing him to confess to killing PC Khetheng while being interrogated.
Mr Mokhosi also accused the police of torturing him and coercing him to make a false statement before the magistrates’ court about the circumstances surrounding PC Khetheng’s death.
Mr Mokhosi said he never knew nor ever met PC Khetheng and therefore he had no motive to kill him.
He said he was arrested and assaulted by the police in an attempt to get him to confess that he and Mr Metsing had killed PC Khetheng.
Addressing scores of LCD supporters in Leribe on Sunday, Mr Metsing said the absence of evidence linking them to the crime was proof that they were not involved in PC Khetheng’s alleged murder.
“They should have found evidence to convict us especially during this time when we are not in power,” said Mr Metsing, the former Deputy Prime Minister during Dr Mosisili’s reign.
“By now they should have found evidence for all these allegations levelled against us of killing people.”
Mr Metsing fled into exile in August 2017 citing an alleged government plot to kill him and for the first time on Sunday, he revealed that Mr Mokhosi saved his life by sending a message to him, warning him to flee for his life. The message was sent despite the fact that Mr Mokhosi was in police custody at the time.
“I would like to thank Ntate Mokhosi for not selling me out even during the most difficult time of torture. He used all possible means to send me a message to run because the police were looking for me and were planning to kill me. He demanded to be allowed to consult two different doctors so that he could find a way to get the hospital personnel to send the message to his wife to tell me to run. I do not believe that any other person would have done what Ntate Mokhosi did for me,” Mr Metsing said.
On his part, Mr Mokhosi retold the story of his alleged torture ordeal at the hands of the police who wanted him to confess to killing PC Khetheng. He likened his ordeal to “crucifixion”.
“I was crucified for seven hours by young policemen who wanted me to confess to killing Khetheng. They bound my arms on my back and suffocated me with a plastic bag. They were enticed by my screams. They took and distributed videos of me as I was crying for forgiveness. But God never forsook me and here I am still alive,” Mr Mokhosi said to murmurs of sympathy from the crowd.
Mr Mokhosi said he then realised during the torture that he was not the one they were actually looking for when the police told him to implicate Mr Metsing.
“I learned during the torture that I was just the bait. They wanted to use me to hook Metsing because he was the one they were looking for. They wanted to kill us hoping to finish this party. But we are still here,” Mr Mokhosi said.
He added that he was turned into a laughing stock by the public and those in government when videos of his alleged torture went viral on social media.
He said that him and Mr Metsing were mocked when they raised their concerns that some of the statements by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane incited the police to acts of brutality.
“I was laughed at when I said that if not stopped, the police would kill civilians. I had experienced their torture and knew exactly what I was talking about. Look what is happening now. So many civilians have died at the hands of the police and no one seems to be bothered by it.
“When (Ntate) Metsing expressed his concern about the danger that Ntate Thabane’s message encouraged the police to brutalise suspected criminals, he was ridiculed. Little did the people realise that by uttering those words, the Prime Minister was blessing the killing of civilians as a policy in his administration.”
Mr Metsing then called for a government of national unity, saying that coalitions governments have not worked for Lesotho. Mr Metsing served as Deputy Prime Minister in the first governing coalition along with then and current Prime Minister Thomas Thabane from 2012 to 2015. He served in the same capacity in the Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition from 2015 to 2017.
“We need a government of national unity. We had the 2012 coalition with Ntate Thabane, another in 2015 with Ntate Mosisili. Both failed to last their five-year tenure. It is clear that the present coalition may collapse anytime now. Our country will continue to be poor if we carry on with these coalition governments. That is why I call for a government of national unity,” Mr Metsing said.
He said a GNU would help cure the persistent ills of hiring people on the basis of their party affiliation instead of merit.
More importantly, he said a GNU would be best placed to drive forward the multi-sector reforms process.
Mr Metsing said the Thabane administration has not handled the reforms process well thus far.
“The reforms are not being handled well. There was euphoria during the reforms in South Africa when Ntate (Nelson) Mandela came out of prison (in 1990). People were positive. They were talking about ‘talks about talks’ and negotiations.
“But our people do not even know or understand the reforms, what they are or what they are meant to achieve. That is because those in the affairs of state do not show enthusiasm in the reforms. They have not done their responsibility of giving hope to our people as to how the reforms will change their lives for the better,” Mr Metsing said.