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Former LAA boss sues DCEO

by Lesotho Times
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demands M485,000 for torture and unlawful arrest

Moorosi Tsiane

Former Land Administration Authority (LAA) chief executive officer, Mahashe Chaka, is demanding M485 000 from the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) for unlawful arrest and torture.

Mr Chaka was arrested by DCEO officials on 10 August 2020 and detained “without any reason justifiable in law” and wants to be compensated for the alleged abuse.

The former LAA boss claims in his lawsuit filed before the High Court last week that during the detention, he was assaulted by the said officials but does not mention their names or why he had been arrested in the first place.

“On or about 10 August 2020, the plaintiff (Chaka) was unlawfully and wrongfully arrested by officers of the DCEO, who were, at that time of the arrest, acting in the course and within the scope, of their employment.

“The DCEO officers arrested the plaintiff without any justifiable cause and for no reasonable basis and therefore, the arrest and subsequent detention of the plaintiff by the DCEO, were unlawful and wrongful. On 11 August 2020, the plaintiff appeared before the magistrate and no charges were read to him, and he was thereafter released by the Maseru Magistrate Court,” Mr Chaka prays in his court papers dated 31 August 2023.

“As a result of the unlawful arrest and detention, the plaintiff suffered damages in the sum of M450 000…and had to undergo medical attention resulting from trauma and from being kept in unhygienic conditions at the detention cells. He incurred medical expenses in the sum of M35 000.

“He claims judgement in the total of M485 000 as damages for unlawful arrest, contumelia and medical expenses.”

However, the Lesotho Times has seen a charge-sheet which indicates that Mr Chaka was brought before the magistrates’ court on corruption and fraud charges he allegedly committed while still the LAA chief executive officer. He resigned from the plum post in October 2018 after the LAA board had dragged him before a disciplinary committee for allegedly abusing his position and embezzling the organisation’s funds.

According to the charge-sheet, Mr Chaka unlawfully registered two plots, one in Masowe 1 and another in the Cathedral Area, in his mother’s names, ‘Mateboho Chaka, thereby abusing his position as LAA boss.

He was further accused of selling himself an LAA Toyota Land Cruiser at 25-percent depreciated value and also buying himself a cell-phone valued at M28 696 when he was entitled to a M16 000 mobile-phone. The case is still pending before the Maseru Magistrates’ Court.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time the DCEO is being accused of abusing the subjects of its investigations.  Early this year, two businessmen, Bokang Semoko of Mohale’s Hoek and Motlatsi Tsiane of Roma, successfully petitioned the High Court to have their legal representatives present when being interrogated by DCEO officials. This, they said, was to deter the officers from further assaulting them.

Messrs Semoko and Tsiane went to court after they had been allegedly abused by DCEO officials probing them in an ongoing multi-million maloti corruption scandal which reportedly took place at the Disaster Management Authority (DMA). The two are alleged to have been part of a scam by DMA chief executive officer, ‘Makhotso Caroline Mahosi, which involved corrupt contracting during a state-of-emergency declared by the government to fight Covid-19 and repair infrastructure damaged by floods.

A Qacha’s Nek man, Relebohile Thulo, in June also sued the DCEO for M1 million over an assault he was allegedly subjected to by the agency’s officers during his detention in March this year.

Mr Thulo, similarly, did not mention why he had been  arrested and the names of the DCEO officials who reportedly detained and assaulted him.

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