Bad blood among detained soldiers

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…govt says LCS was forced to separate suspects due to “covert animosity among them”.

Keiso Mohloboli

HIGH profile criminal suspects from the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) who are currently in custody at the Maseru Maximum Security Prison had to be separated by Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) staff and housed in different quarters due to what the government described as “covert animosity among them”.

The government said this in a recent briefing to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on the status of criminal cases involving top soldiers including former LDF commander Tlali Kamoli.

The government also said that the existence of renegade elements within the LDF who still backed Lt-Gen Kamoli was “a serious security concern” given the army’s role in providing security whenever the suspects had to be transported for their court appearances.

Apart from Lt-Gen Kamoli, other military suspects currently in custody include Captain Litekanyo Nyakane (38), Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane (34) and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa (31). The three were charged alongside Lt-Gen Kamoli in the 30 August 2014 killing of Police Sub-Inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko.

Other detained soldiers are Major Pitso Ramoepane and Captains Boiketsiso Fonane and Litekanyo Nyakane. They stand accused of mutiny in relation to the events that led to the 5 September 2017 assassination of Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo at his Ratjomose Barracks offices in Maseru.

Although the government did not elaborate on the animosity in its dispatch to SADC, sources close to the developments told this publication that the conflict among the suspects had its genesis in the belief by some of them that their colleagues had a hand in their arrest.

The sources said that some suspects believe they were arrested as a result of the information provided to the police by those who were first arrested when the government moved in to solve cases emanating from various criminal activities involving the military last year.

Upon its advent in June 2017, the four party coalition government wasted no time in investigating criminal acts involving members of the security agencies that fuelled instability in the country from 2014 to the 2017 assassination of Lt-Gen Motšomotšo.

Lt-Gen Kamoli was one of the first high profile suspects to be arrested in October 2017.

He has been charged with one count of murder and 14 counts of attempted murder.

Lt-Gen Kamoli’s murder charge stems from the 30 August 2014 killing of Police Sub-Inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko.

Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was shot and killed by soldiers during the attempted coup of August 2014 at the Police Headquarters in Maseru. The soldiers who allegedly acted on the instructions of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Kamoli, also raided several other police stations in Maseru and seized an assortment of weapons.

The 14 attempted murder charges stem from the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesaiah Thabane, one ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane, and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana.

Lt-Gen Kamoli has been languishing in custody at the Maximum Security Prison since his arrest and his bid for release on bail was denied by High Court judge, Justice Teboho Moiloa in November 2017.

According to one source, “some of the suspects believe that during their interrogation, Kamoli and others who were the first to be arrested provided information that incriminated them and resulted in their arrests”.

“The belief by the later suspects that they were sold out by those who came before them fuelled tensions and the LCS soon realised that it had to separate the inmates who had initially been housed together.”

Another source said that trouble started after lawyers of the inmates requested the documents that were used by the prosecution to prepare the charges against the suspects.

“It was then that some suspects realised that they had been arrested on the basis of the confessions of their colleagues. This resulted in the suspects confronting each other with accusations and counter-accusations as to who had sold the others out. The confrontations forced the LCS to separate them to prevent any outbreak of violence.”

The government subsequently told SADC that while the inmates were afforded proper treatment in line with “national and international standards”, there was however, animosity among them.

“All inmates…are all in good health and the treatment they are getting is pursuant to national and international standards…

“However, it should be noted that there is covert animosity among them which the correctional services has controlled by housing them in separate divisions.

“Most of them are well behaved except a few cases where some of them show ill-discipline,” the government further stated without elaborating what the ill-discipline actually entailed.

The government also told SADC that all the inmates were in good health and they were accorded decent treatment which met the national and international standards for the treatment of criminal suspects.

Elaborating on the treatment, the government said the suspects were allowed visits from their families and friends. They were also allowed to consult their legal representatives and they were given time for physical activities.

“They are afforded medical services and they are also allowed to consult their personal doctors on request.

“They are provided with adequate visitation meals from their friends and families,” the government stated.

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