THE newly appointed Minister of Defence and National Security, Tefo Mapesela, has declared war on murderers and as well as criminals who use the Mohokare (Caledon) River to smuggle stolen livestock to or from neighbouring South Africa.
Mr Mapesela said the army should not hesitate to shoot to kill such criminals.
Mr Mapesela said those who violated the right of other citizens by taking their lives did not deserve to live as well and the army would crack down on them very soon. He said this while addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Defence yesterday.
Mr Mapesela, who has previously the Minister of Trade and Industry since the advent of the Thomas Thabane regime in June 2017, was on Monday moved to the Defence ministry to replace Sentje Lebona who resigned in September this year.
He hit the ground running with yesterday’s chilling warning to criminals. His remarks come against the background of growing international and local calls for the government to act against human rights abuses, particularly police brutality.
A recent African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) report seen by this publication expresses concern over the “persistent allegations of police brutality” in Lesotho and calls on the government to capacitate the relevant institutions to enable them to investigate allegations of human rights violations.
“The government should incorporate the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in all its actions as well as in the legal, policy and institutional reforms which would be initiated as a result of the ongoing national dialogue,” the ACHPR report states.
But Mr Mapesela said his call was not an incitement to human rights abuses. He said criminals should not be considered as people with rights.
“We have been very patient with criminals who kill people mercilessly on daily basis such as the massacres in Rothe and Kolo this year which have left innocent people living in fear,” Mr Mapesela said.
“Most of these killings are connected to Famo music (rivalries) or illegal mining activities while some criminals kill innocent souls in order to steal their livestock. Quite often livestock and mohair are smuggled through Mohokare but we have now come to a point where we say enough is enough.
“Criminals and murderers should retire immediately. The army’s job is not to arrest people so those who have been acting as Goliaths on the residents of this country will be collected as corpses. Someone with a firearm should not be considered a person with human rights but he must be eliminated as his intention is to kill. Innocent people’s rights should be prioritised over criminals’ so-called rights.
“There is this trend of criminals who call themselves BTKs (Born to kill) gain respect for killing certain numbers of people. I believe no one wants to have their loved ones killed and the army is going to ensure that it eradicates that satanic behaviour.”
Mr Mapesela further mentioned that Lesotho has recently been tormented by killings at illegal mines in South Africa. He said disputes at the illegal mines often ended with retributive killings of family members in Lesotho.
“We have had cases where those working in illegal mines in South Africa come here to kill people without any fear of being arrested as they say they have police officers or LDF members who are part of them. That stops now. Such a security officer is should be considered a criminal and be eliminated. If those criminals want a fight, they should come now because the army is ready to face them. By the end of this month people should be able to sleep with their doors unlocked.
“Apart from that, music should be a rehabilitating thing not a tool to attack each other as is done with Famo. Those disputes often result in killings and that should stop now.”
He further ordered those in possession of illegal firearms to hand them over to the police with immediate effect. He said army officers had been posted to various locations, especially the border areas as well as the crime hotspots to deal with criminals.
Mr Mapesela also apologised for the past atrocities by the army and promised that the soldiers would no longer be used by politicians for the latter’s self-interest.
“When the army commander (Lt-Gen Mojalefa Letsoela) took office this year, he apologised for the intolerable behaviour which the defence force had adopted because they had allowed themselves to be used by politicians to torture other politicians and civilians. I echo his words that there will never be a time when a politician, civilian or journalist will be threatened by the army. The army is here to protect the nation and I apologise for their failure in the past.
“It should be clear that I never called for torture or ordered any person to be killed. Criminals should not be considered as people.
“Politicians should also be free to attack each other through media or at political rallies. There will never be a time when I use the army to fight my personal or political battles. Furthermore, each soldier has the right to decline an order which is against the vow he took during training. Every soldier should remember and bear in mind the vow he took when he joined the defence force.”
He also said that the army would continue to work smoothly with the police in operations such as roadblocks especially during the festive season.