Army, police turf war escalates

Tefo Tefo

The war of attrition between the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) has scaled new heights after the army failed to honour a High Court order for the urgent release of two injured senior police officers.

The order was issued by Justice Molefi Makara last Saturday, and followed an urgent application by two Ha-Mabote housewives, whose husbands, Inspector Tuba Tumisang Moloi and Superintendent Mpho Lehloka, had been under “unlawful LDF guard” since 30 September 2014.

In their papers filed before the court on Saturday, the women, ‘Matumelo Moloi and ‘Malebajoa Lehloka, argued their husbands were “unlawfully” detained by the army at Makoanyane Military Hospital and Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital after sustaining injuries during an LDF/LMPS shootout, which took place in Khubetsoana on 30 September.

The applicants wanted the court to order the LDF Commander and Officer Commanding LDF Special Forces “to release forthwith from their unlawful custody, Superintendent Mpho Lehloka and Inspector Tuba Tumisang Moloi”.

In addition, the two wanted the court to “interdict and restrain the LDF from placing the said police officers under any form of guard and/or supervision at any given time,” and declare the arrest and detention of their husbands “illegal and unlawful”.

The two wives, who are being backed by the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) as the third applicant, managed to obtain an interim High Court order for the release of their husbands on Saturday.

However, the LMPS officers had still not been released by Tuesday afternoon, while the Lesotho Times could not establish if the order had been eventually complied with yesterday.

The detained officers’ lawyer, Advocate Makhetha Motšoari on Tuesday told the Lesotho Times that the LDF had been duly served with court papers regarding the illegality of the detention of Inspector Moloi and Superintendent Lehloka, as well as the High Court order.

“The LDF has already been served with the interim court order, but I haven’t received any information regarding their release,” he said.

In her affidavit, Inspector Moloi’s wife, ‘Matumelo noted: “I am reliably informed that on the night of 30 September 2014, there was an attack at or near the home of the Acting Government Secretary, Mr Moahloli Mphaka, in Khubetsoana. The said home is under the guard of Special Operations Unit (SOU) police personnel.

“I am reliably informed and I believe the same to be true, that during the aforesaid attack, there was an exchange of fire between army personnel and the police on guard.

“The SOU was immediately deployed for reinforcement and assessment, wherefore the SOU Commanding Officer, and other officers, went to the scene.

“It was just on arrival that the army personnel shot at the arriving police officers. The said police officers were driving a police vehicle which was riddled with a hail of bullets on its arrival.”

Mrs Moloi further stated in the court papers: “During that shooting, there were serious casualties as Superintendent Mpho Lehloka and Inspector Tuba Tumisang Moloi both sustained grievous injuries.

“The cross-firing eventually ceased but it was on the very same night that the two seriously injured officers were taken by the army personnel for no apparent reason.

“Police investigations revealed that the two police officers were detained at Makoanyane Military Hospital.

“A plea was made by the police that they be released to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital and or a neutral hospital. However, the plea fell on deaf ears as only one officer (Superintendent Lehloka) was released to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital and has been there under heavy guard of the commandos.

“My husband, Inspector Moloi, has been detained in Makoanyane Military Hospital under surveillance of the commandos.

“In essence, both these officers are under heavy guard of military personnel.”

Ms Moloi explained she and Mrs Lehloka had to approach the High Court after the LDF refused to release their husbands.

“I aver that this matter is extremely urgent in that on 1 October 2014, there were negotiations held for the release of these officers, that is my husband and Mr Lehloka, but the negotiations fell through at noon yesterday (Friday) the 3rd of October 2014. We were told that the two officers could not be released and that is when we went to LEPOSA, who have been assisting us with everything, and then to our counsel,” Ms Moloi  stated.

Detailing her husband’s injuries, Ms Moloi said: “My husband was shot in the waist and right arm. He has been operated on, in the waist where we are simply told the bullet could not be removed.

“I aver that I have a clear right as the detained officer, Inspector Moloi, is my husband. We have one child who is six years old.

“We, as a family, need him alive and the current hostility between the soldiers and the police does not guarantee us that my husband will get the best treatment.

“He is constantly visited by soldiers, especially one Mokaloba who has even threatened me by saying I have been making things difficult for my husband.”

Repeated attempts to get a comment from the LDF on the issue were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the respondents in the case include the Army Commander, Officer Commanding LDF Special Forces, Minister of Defence, Minister of Health, Makoanyane Military Hospital, Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital and Attorney General.

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