THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, has alleged that Police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko was murdered in an attempt to conceal incriminating evidence against then Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who had been fired from his post as army commander on 29 August 2014.
Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was shot and killed by soldiers at the police headquarters in Maseru during the attempted coup against the first government of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on 30 August 2014.
DPP Motinyane made the claims in her affidavit filed to oppose Lt-Gen Kamoli and other serving and former members of the security agencies’ application to stop the state from trying them for various crimes including treason and the murder of former army commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao.
Lt-Gen Kamoli has been charged with Sub-Inspector Ramahloko’s murder. Three other army officers namely, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa have been charged alongside Lt-Gen Kamoli.
The attempted coup, which involved pre-dawn raids on police stations in Maseru by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), was in retaliation for Mr Thabane’s decision to sack Lt-Gen Kamoli and replace him with Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao.
Lt-Gen Mahao was later assassinated in June 2015 by LDF officers who claimed that he was shot while resisting arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny against the command of Lt-Gen Kamoli who had been reinstated by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led former seven parties’ government which replaced the Thabane administration in February 2015.
The allegations were later dismissed as a hoax by a SADC commission of inquiry into the murder in 2016.
Earlier this month, Lt-Gen Kamoli and other high-profile suspects in various criminal cases launched a new Constitutional Court application to permanently stop their trials.
They argue that they have been in custody for far too long and the delays in trying them are an infringement of their constitutional rights to speedy and fair trials.
DPP Motinyane is opposing their application. In her affidavit filed in court this week, DPP Motinyane alleged that soldiers stormed the police headquarters on 30 August 2014 and murdered Sub-Inspector Ramahloko after he failed to produce dockets regarding the fraud and corruption charges levelled against then Deputy Prime Minister Metsing.
Mr Metsing’s Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD) was in a governing coalition with Mr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Chief Thesele Maseribane’s Basotho National Party (BNP). However, Mr Metsing and Lt-Gen Kamoli allegedly instigated the coup against Mr Thabane after the LCD leader had fallen out with the ex-premier over a plethora of issues including his alleged failure to consult before making decisions.
At the time Mr Metsing had also been accused of corruption in connection with the awarding of a M120 million contract to Big Bravo (Pty) Ltd to refurbish roads in Matala Ha-Leqele, Maseru in 2013.
Lt-Gen Kamoli had also been accused of orchestrating the January 2014 simultaneous bombings of former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane’s Moshoeshoe II home and the Ha Abia residence of former Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana.
It is against this background that DPP Motinyane alleges that Lt-Gen Kamoli and others should not be freed but instead stand trial as they have several cases to answer to.
Among others, she argues that they have to stand trial for the murder of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko who she says was killed as part of an elaborate plot to conceal evidence of Mr Metsing’s alleged corruption as well as Lt-Gen Kamoli’s involvement in the January 2014 bombings.
“On or about 29 and 30 August 2014, Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko was killed and evidence in the prospective criminal trial is going to show that he was murdered for his failure to produce the docket that implicates Mothetjoa Metsing in the commission of crimes relating to fraud and corruption,” DPP Motinyane states in her affidavit.
“During their attack on the police headquarters and police stations, members of the Lesotho Defence Force also wanted investigations dockets relating to the bombings in Moshoeshoe II during January 2014 in which Lt-Gen Kamoli and Litekanyo Nyakane are implicated together with their co-accused.
“In essence, the historical background of the crime (Sub-Inspector Ramahloko’s murder) completes the synopsis of the undisputed factual matric of events concerning the charges of treason.”
All in all, 28 applicants have filed the latest application to try and halt their trials completely. Of these, 24 are soldiers and the rest are police officers.
Lt-Gen Kamoli, Major Pitso Ramoepana, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane and Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu are the best known of the applicants.
They have been in remand prison since their arrests in 2017 after elections that year which ushered in Mr Thabane’s four party coalition, replacing the Mosisili administration under whose tenure rampant rights abuses were committed.
The 28 applicants argue that due to their lengthy detention, their rights to a fair trial have been compromised and therefore their trials should be stayed.
They argue that their “inhuman” detention at the Maseru prison should be declared unconstitutional and they should thus be released on bail pending the finalisation of their latest application.
They also claim that the foreign judges Charles Hungwe (Zimbabwe) and Onkemetse Tshosa (Botswana) are “incompetent” to preside over their trials.
They therefore want the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to advise His Majesty King Letsie III to set up a tribunal to inquire into the competency of the two judges, who were specifically recruited by the JSC to preside over all high-profile cases involving politicians and members of the security agencies accused of rights abuses during the Mosisili era.
DPP Motinyane, the Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal Adv ‘Mathato Sekoai, the Commissioner of the Lesotho Correctional Service, the JSC, Attorney General Adv Haae Phoofolo, Justice Hungwe and Justice Tshosa are the first to seventh respondents respectively in the application.
The applicants want the Constitutional Court to order that “the applicants’ right to a fair trial within a reasonable time has been violated”.
They want an order granting them bail in terms of section 6(5) of the constitution.
Section 6(5) of the constitution states that, “if any person is arrested or detained upon suspicion of committing a criminal offence… and his criminal offence is not tried within a reasonable time, then, without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him, he shall be released either unconditionally or upon reasonable conditions, including such conditions as are reasonable necessary to ensure that he appears at a later date for trial for proceedings preliminary to trial”.
However, Adv Motinyane argues that they are a threat to national security and it is only right that they remain in custody.
“In my viewpoint, the criminal trials in respect of which applicants have been charged alongside the former army commander (Lt-Gen Kamoli) are complex and require a lengthy duration to finalise to an extent that during their progress, the applicants must remain in custody because of the risk they pose to national security.
“The government of Lesotho reached an agreement with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that foreign judges be recruited for the high-profile cases in view of the toxic political climate and prevailing insecurity in the country.
“I am attaching more weight to the serious nature of the charges that the applicants are facing as the justification to oppose their release on bail in that they have not proved exceptional circumstances in view of the delicately poised security situation in Lesotho. Some of their co-accused like (former National Security Services Director General) Tumo Lekhooa and (former Police Commissioner) Molahlehi Letsoepa have already skipped the country to avoid criminal prosecution.
“The political disturbances of 2014 and thereafter created a national crisis which threatened the survival of state institutions. The applicants have been identified as some of the people responsible for the commission of crimes instant and the international community had offered assistance to facilitate the prosecution of their criminal trials fairly and impartially under our criminal and justice system.
“The applicants have always known from around August 2014 and June 2015 that they were wanted in connection with the murder charge under consideration and treason. They did not cooperate with the police and they would not be arrested or be charged because they were in power and control of state institutions.
“This has led to the involvement of the international community in stabilising important institutions of the state such as the police by facilitating the prosecution of the criminal cases of the applicants.
“The lawyers involved in this frivolous and vexatious litigations are the same lawyers who have been representing the applicants in all the cases which were dismissed. They know the import and directions in the orders that the courts granted previously in the matters between the parties very well. They know very well that there is no merit in this application except to waste time and limited resources,” Adv Motinyane argues.