Mashai set free

mashaiMASERU — Makotoko Lerotholi, who has been in prison in South Africa for the past two months in connection with the April attacks on State House and military barracks, is a free man.

According to his lawyer, Haae Phoofolo, Lerotholi — popularly known as Mashai — was released on Tuesday last week after the Lesotho government reportedly failed to initiate extradition proceedings.

Mashai (pictured) was released on a R2 500 bail. He was arrested in Pretoria on May 8.

“All I know is that he is free on bail,” Phoofolo said last night.

“The legislation states that if 60 days lapse without compilation of a report, evidence or statement from the complainant the case may be discharged and restarted.”

Phoofolo said he was still not sure about the reporting conditions that the Pretoria court had set for Mashai’s bail.

“I have not been able to meet my client (Mashai) face to face since his release because I had other commitments,” Phoofolo said.

He however said he would visit Mashai in South Africa “soon”.

Mashai, a former military officer, fled Lesotho following his escape from police custody after being arrested in connection with the June 2007 attacks on ministers’ homes.

The event almost plunged Lesotho into political turmoil and it forced the government to declare a three-day curfew.

In May this year, the police announced they suspected that Mashai had masterminded and organised a group of men who had launched an attack on State House on April 22 in an attempt on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s life.

The men also attacked Makoanyane barracks, kidnapped six soldiers and stole two army vehicles before launching the attack on State House where Mosisili stays.

Four of the suspected mercenaries, mostly from Mozambique, were killed by Lesotho’s joint security forces in subsequent gun battles.

Two were arrested in Lesotho while seven others were nabbed in South Africa as they were trying to flee.

The government says the men wanted to destabilise the country and overthrow Mosisili’s government.

Mashai was arrested when he sought refuge at a police station “after hearing that someone wanted to kill him”, according to his lawyer.

He appeared before the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court for the first time on May 11 and the case was postponed to May 18.

The matter was again postponed.

Phoofolo said Mashai was released because the director of public prosecution in South Africa had not received formal papers forming part of the report from the government of Lesotho.

The two suspects who were arrested in Lesotho were a South African, Solomon Mabaso, and a Mozambican by the name of Antonio José Lopez.

Last Friday they appeared before the Maseru Magistrate Court but the matter could not proceed because there was no interpreter.

It has however since emerged that their charges have ballooned from the initial nine to 31.

Initially the two were facing two counts of robbery and seven of kidnapping.

The state has added 13 more charges of attempted murder.

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