LDF re-captures fugitive soldier

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Bereng Mpaki

THE Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) says it has re-arrested fugitive soldier, Private Moeketsi Henry Lehlabathe, who escaped from the LDF detention centre at Ratjomose Barracks in Maseru on Friday.

In a statement this week, the LDF public affairs office said that Pvt Lehlabathe was arrested at the Maseru Border on Sunday night as he attempted to cross into the neighbouring South Africa.

“The LDF Public Affairs Office informs the Basotho nation of the re-arrest of the member of the LDF who was reported to have escaped from lawful LDF custody at Ratjomose Barracks on 11 January 2019,” the LDF said.

“The said member, Private Moeketsi Henry Lehlabathe was re-arrested at the Maseru Border Gate on 13 January at night with the assistance of the public while trying to cross into the neighbouring South Africa.

“Private Lehlabathe is in the custody of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) assisting with investigations on other matters. The LDF also informs the nation that this member is facing several military charges. The LDF thanks the nation and local media houses who assisted with the re-arrest of Private Lehlabathe…”

Captain Sakeng Lekola of the LDF public affairs office, recently told the Lesotho Times’ sister Sunday Express publication that Pvt Lehlabathe escaped from lawful custody where he was serving an 80-day sentence for absenteeism and escaping from lawful custody.

Captain Lekola said Pvt Lehlabathe had been tried and found guilty by the court martial. His sentence started on 20 December 2018 and was due to end on 10 March 2019.

He was charged with contravening section 55 of the LDF Act no. 4 of 1996 in connection with absence from work without official leave and section 70 of the same act in connection with escaping from lawful custody.

The LDF had on Friday asked members of the public to come forward with any information that would lead to the arrest of Pvt Lehlabathe who had escaped from the LDF detention on that same day.

The LDF had also warned the public against attempting to apprehend Pvt Lehlabathe as “he could pose danger to their lives”. The public was also warned against entertaining Pvt Lehlabathe as “he is a fraudster”.

Pvt Lehlabathe had been tried and found guilty by the court martial. He began serving his sentence on 20 December 2018 and he was due to complete it on 10 March 2019.

Meanwhile, police spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli this week said that Pvt Lehlabathe was a known car thief and he was also suspected to have stolen communications equipment popularly known as walkie-talkies.

Supt Mopeli said that in one case, Pvt Lehlabathe pretended to be a passenger, held a taxi driver at gunpoint before stealing his car.

He further said the stolen car was later used in criminal activities in Ha Seoli in Maseru and later sold off. The police are holding onto the vehicle as an exhibit.

Supt Mopeli said Pvt Lehlabathe allegedly stole a second car and stripped off its parts. The police discovered the vehicle at Pvt Lehlabathe’s hideout in Ha Seoli on 9 January 2019.

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