Colonel Naha Kolisang was slapped with three new charges yesterday, sparking outrage among lawyers representing him and 23 fellow Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officers already facing mutiny charges before the Court Martial.
The colonel is now being charged with “making false accusations and insubordination against army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli”, as well as “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline” in violation of the LDF Act.
According to his charge sheet signed on 1 December by LDF Chief of Staff Major-General Lineo Poopa, the colonel allegedly made the false claims against Lt-Gen Kamoli last month.
“On or about 15 October 2015 at or around the Military Detention Centre situated at Maseru Maximum Correctional Institution in the district of Maseru, the accused, being subject to the LDF Act, unlawfully and intentionally made false accusations against the Commander of the LDF by saying ‘Acting Major-General (Court Martial President Major-General Mojalefa Letsoela) has been appointed by a victim of mutiny to further his interests’ which accusation he knows to be false,” reads the charge-sheet.
Colonel Kolisang is also charged for “intentionally using insubordinate language to the Commander of the LDF”.
On this charge, he is said to have “unlawfully and intentionally conducted himself in a manner which is to the prejudice of good order and military discipline by lying in his written statement of objection to members of the Court Martial where he said ‘I was present with all members of the bench in that meeting’ (meeting of Generals and Senior Officers) when he knows that he and all members of the Court Martial, save for the President, could not attend the meeting of the Generals, and that some of the members could not even attend a meeting of Senior Officers”.
Colonel Kolisang is also accused of “unlawfully and intentionally conducting himself in a manner which is to the prejudice of good order and military discipline in his written objection to members of the Court Martial, where he referred to the then Major Sechele as Captain when he knew that he was acting in an appointment as Major”.
However, the new charges met with protests by lawyers representing the 23 mutiny suspects when they were brought to the attention of the Court Martial by Advocate Kuili Ndebele, who represents Colonel Kolisang in the trial.
Advocate Ndebele then told Major-General Letsoela he should recuse himself from the trial as he was an interested party.
According to Advocate Ndebele, the new charges against Colonel Kolisang appeared to have been the result of objections he raised against the appointment of Major-General Letsoela as president of the Court Martial.
“We don’t have confidence in the president anymore. We raise objections in line with court rules and we are charged. How can we hold trial? We don’t know if our clients are going to be charged for asking the Court Martial to allow their grievances to be heard by the High Court as we intend to do.
“We submit that the president should recuse himself right now as he is surely a witness in this matter,” said Advocate Ndebele.
The lawyer cited Maj-Gen Letsoela’s affidavit in response to Colonel Kolisang’s objections about his presidency of the military court.
In the affidavit, Maj-Gen Letsoela dismissed Colonel Kolisang’s objections as tantamount to insubordination.
“For the colonel to say I am ‘only an acting Major-General’ is as if I do not have any powers, duties and responsibilities vested in the rank of Major-General save for the purpose of appointment. I may calculate such statements as knocking on the door of undermining the rank as well as my personal being,” noted Maj-Gen Kolisang.
“Ordinarily, the statement sounds contrary to the ethics and conduct expected from an officer of Colonel because it lacks substance; it sounds an attacking and insubordination statement sadly towards the authorities (Minister of Defence and National Security Tšeliso Mokhosi and LDF Commander Lt-Gen Kamoli), if ever the Colonel is referring to either of the two mentioned authorities”.
Colonel Kolisang and his fellow mutiny suspects were arrested between May and June this year and are detained in the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.
The case continues in the Court Martial this morning.