Kamoli authorised Mahao’s arrest: Poopa

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Moorosi Tsiane

RETIRED Major General Lineo Poopa has thrown murder-accused former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, under the bus.  He has essentially accused Kamoli of ordering the controversial arrest of the late army commander, Maaparankoe Mahao, which led to the latter being gunned down by fellow soldiers in June 2015.

At the time, the army- then under Kamoli’s leadership- claimed that Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Mahao had been killed while resisting arrest for an alleged mutiny against Kamoli’s command in 2015.

However, a 2016 SADC Commission of Inquiry ruled that there was no such mutiny and instead recommended the arrest and prosecution of those behind his killing.

Kamoli and nine other soldiers were subsequently arrested and are currently on trial for Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder as per the SADC recommendations.

Kamoli’s co-accused are Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi Moleli, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tsitso Ramoholi. They have all denied murdering Lt-Gen Mahao.

However, Rtd Maj-Gen Poopa, who is a state witness in their trial, testified on Tuesday that there was no way that the late Lt-Gen Mahao could have been arrested by his juniors without Kamoli’s knowledge and consent.

Rtd Maj-Gen Poopa said despite being third in command in the army at the time of Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder, he had not been aware that Lt-Gen Mahao was going to be arrested for mutiny.

He said it only came to his attention that Lt-Gen Mahao had been implicated in mutiny after one Colonel Posa Stemmere’s arrest.

“I didn’t know that Mahao was going to be arrested because there was never a meeting to discuss his arrest. I only knew after Col Stemmere was arrested that Gen Mahao was also implicated in the mutiny matter,” Rtd Maj-Gen Poopa told presiding Judge Charles Hungwe.

He said like any other senior army officer, Lt-Gen Mahao would have been arrested only after an order had been given by the commander.

He said this in reply to lead prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, who had asked if Lt-Gen Mahao’s arrest needed any authorisation and whether Lt-Gen Kamoli knew about it.

“Yes, in the same manner as Col Stemmere and other soldiers’ arrest, it (Mahao’s arrest) needed an authorisation. Yes, Lt-Gen Kamoli should have authorised it because such reports were given to him on a daily basis by the then acting Commander, the late Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo. The team which was also investigating the alleged mutiny was also reporting to him.

“General Mahao was under Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s Command when he was still head of logistics but he was suspended after a squabble with Col Hashatsi. He was suspended by Lt-Gen Motšomotšo acting under the Commander,” Rtd Maj-Gen Poopa said.

He said on that fateful day (25 June 2015), he was in the late Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s office when he received a phone call from the now deceased Brigadier Bulane Sechele informing him that they were going to arrest Lt-Gen Mahao.

“It was after lunch and I was in General Motšomotšo’s office when I received a phone call from Brig Sechele telling me that they were at Ha-Lekete, Mokema where they were to arrest General Mahao but he took out his pistol wanting to shoot them so they had shot him.

“He (Sechele) said they were on their way to the Makoanyane Military Hospital and asked that I alert the hospital they were going to receive a patient with gunshot wounds. He didn’t tell me how many shots they fired at Gen Mahao. My understanding was that he was still alive when I was talking to Sechele.

“I called Brigadier Ramoqopo who was the Commander at the hospital and told her to expect a gun wounded patient and ensure there would be a doctor on standby. I also informed General Motšomotšo about this issue. Lt-Gen Motšomotšo then called Lt-Gen Kamoli.

“After sometime Brig Ramoqopo called me and said General Mahao had arrived and they were still trying to help him. They took about 30 minutes and they called again and said they were sorry that they had lost Mahao.

“I informed General Motšomotšo that we had lost the fight and general Mahao was no more. He again called Lt-Gen Kamoli who said he would alert the police and the (then) Prime Minister (Pakalitha Mosisili) about the matter. My understanding was that General Mahao’s death was now a police matter,” Rtd Maj-Gen Poopa said.

The trial continues today with the defence counsel cross-examining Maj-Gen Poopa.

Lt-Gen Kamoli is represented by Adv Letuka Molati. Adv Silas Ratau represents Capt Nyakane and Capt Haleo Makara while Adv Napo Mafaesa represents Sgt Motsamai Fako, Corporals ‘Moleli, Machai and Seitlheko.

Attorney Qhalehang Letsika represents Sgt Moepi and Adv Kabelo Letuka represents Corporal Ramoholi.

Meanwhile, there had earlier been drama in the High Court when a war of words erupted between Advocates Abrahams and Mafaesa after the latter arrived late for the trial.

It all started after Adv Abrahams took a dig at Adv Mafaesa and accused him of being unprofessional for being late for the proceedings.

At the start of the proceedings, Mr Letsika suggested that Adv Letuka should stand in for Adv Mafaesa who had not yet arrived.

Adv Letuka indicated that he had no problem standing in for Adv Mafaesa. However, Adv Abrahams counter-suggested that Adv Letuka should first call Adv Mafaesa to take instructions from him.

Adv Letuka did as suggested by Adv Abrahams and returned to inform the court that he could not reach Adv Mafaesa on his mobile phone.

“My Lord, I could not find Adv Mafaesa. But I have no problem standing in for him until he arrives,” Adv Letuka told the court.

Adv Mafaesa showed up shortly after the lunch break when Adv Abrahams was leading Maj-Gen Poopa in his examination in chief.

Adv Abrahams paused to allow Adv Mafaesa to explain why he was late. The latter simply said he was back. He did not apologise for being late. That did not sit well with Adv Abrahams who lashed out at him for his “unbecoming and unprofessional” behaviour.

“This is unbecoming and unprofessional of the Counsel to be absent for the most of the day and when they return nothing is said to us on why he was late. He has not apologised. I was expecting that you will put the Lordship into your confidence on why you were not around,” the evidently irate Adv Abrahams charged.

But Adv Mafaesa did not take that lying down. He fired back at Adv Abrahams, saying the South African was getting millions from prosecuting cases while he and other pro deo lawyers were being paid peanuts by the state for representing clients.

“You get paid millions and I get nothing from these cases. I have to find means to live and pay rent and my staff. I communicated with the judge’s clerk that I would be late as I had other commitments and then you tell me that I am unbecoming. I was actually insulted here My Lord by being labelled unprofessional,” fumed Adv Mafaesa.

Justice Hungwe then said he had not been informed that Adv Mafaesa would be late hence the lawyer still had to apologise.

“The expectation was that you will apologise and what you are now saying was never communicated to me. I am not even saying you were not insulted but you still owe us an apology,” Justice Hungwe said.

Mr Letsika then proposed that the trial should continue and the matter should be resolved in the judge’s chambers at a later stage.

The trial subsequently continued as he suggested.

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