Army ordered to pay M450k in torture lawsuit
HIGH Court judge, Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane, on Monday ordered the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to pay a Maseru businessman M450 000 as compensation for torture at the hands of army officers in 2007.
Motlomelo Motlomelo had sued the army demanding M3 million for the pain, suffering and humiliation he allegedly suffered after being “kidnapped and detained” by LDF members during the post-election unrest in 2007.
However, Justice Hlajoane awarded him M450 000 after noting that Mr Motlomelo had made a satisfactory case to support his claim.
The plaintiff was represented by King’s Counsel (KC) Motiea Teele, while the respondents, who included the LDF commander and Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe, were represented by Advocate Rapelang Motsieloa.
Narrating his ordeal during the trial which began in May this year, Mr Motlomelo said the soldiers kidnapped him from his home in Motimposo on the night of 24 June 2007, while he was in the company of his wife and children.
He said unknown men arrived at his home and introduced themselves as police officers, before searching the premises, saying they were looking for firearms stolen from soldiers at roadblocks mounted in Lakeside and Ha-Motšoeneng in the Lithabaneng area that week.
“When we left home, they covered my face with a cloth and drove me to a place I did not know,” said Mr Motlomelo.
“I could only sense we were taking the direction leading to Makoanyane.
“But we did not get into Makoanyane Barracks and I could sense we were now in Thaba-Bosiu where they took me to Phuthiatsana river.
“They started assaulting me saying I should retrieve the guns that were stolen from the soldiers.
“I kept on telling them that I knew nothing about the firearms, but they continued assaulting me.
“At one point, one of them hit me with the butt of a gun and I fell to the ground.
“They suffocated me with a rubber-like cloth and poured water all over my body.
“I was wet everywhere, including in my underwear.”
He added: “As I continued telling them that I did not know anything about the stolen guns, they started undressing me.
“One of them held me by the genitals and tied them with something like a thread.
“He held that thread from behind and forcefully pushed me forward and, as I was about to fall, he pulled back the thread. I cannot describe the pain I felt at that moment.
“One of them then started squeezing my genitals and they eventually hit me in the genitals with something that I thought was a hammer. I immediately became unconscious.
“I only regained consciousness when I was where I could feel was a house with tiles on the floor.
“At the time, my clothes were warm again, but I did not know if it was still night or day because I was still covered on the face.
“I learned after a long time, which I could not tell if it were some days or what, that one late (Makotoko) Lerotholi was also in that house.”
Mr Motlomelo also told the court after “some days” he and Mr Lerotholi were taken to Police Headquarters where he realised that they had been arrested together with then Major Ramabele Mokhantšo, Captain Lehloa Ramotšo and one Majalle.
He said they were taken to court and charged with high treason and sedition.
“There was a time when the High Court had ordered that we be released from Police Headquarters, but the soldiers arrived and took some of the people who were being kept there with us.
“One of my friends in the police came to where I was hiding at Pitso Ground Police Station and took me to a car that was parked outside.
“I got into that car and we drove to the border post. That’s how I escaped to South Africa.
“I had already spent 13 days in detention.
“I spent about three years in South Africa until I came back in 2009,” he said.