Mokhosi flees again

  • former defence minister escapes Mahao death probe
  • while former DPM Metsing goes into hiding.

Mohalenyane Phakela

FORMER Defence Minister and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, has fled the country again after he was summoned for questioning over his alleged role in the killing of former army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.

This is the second time Mr Mokhosi has fled after originally skipping the country in September 2017, claiming that the police had tortured him and wanted him dead.

The former defence minister’s second escape comes barely two weeks after him and his party leader Mothetjoa Metsing returned to the country from more than a year in self-imposed exile in South Africa. The LCD claimed yesterday that Mr Metsing had also gone into hiding and its two top leaders would no longer participate in the ongoing reforms.

The duo returned on 25 November 2018 after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) brokered a deal between the government and the opposition for their return.

In terms of that 26 October 2018 agreement, Messrs Mokhosi, Metsing and other opposition leaders would not be prosecuted for any crimes until after the current reforms process aimed at implementing a number of governance changes recommended by SADC in 2016.

Clause 10 of that government-opposition deal granting the opposition leaders immunity from prosecution for the duration of the reforms was subsequently struck down by the Constitutional Court which ruled that it violated  the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s prosecutorial discretion.

The case had been brought to court by the family of the slain Lt-Gen Mahao and others whose relatives were killed by soldiers during the tenure of the previous coalition government.

Messrs Metsing and Mokhosi were deputy prime minister and defence minister respectively, during the seven parties’ coalition that was headed by Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Pakalitha Mosisili until its ouster in the June 3 2017 snap elections.

During Dr Mosisili’s tenure in 2015, Lt-Gen Mahao was assassinated by fellow soldiers who claimed he had resisted arrest for allegedly being the ringleader of a mutiny against the command of the then army chief Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli. The claim was dismissed as nonsensical by a commission appointed by SADC to probe the killing.

And in the latest turn of events, Mr Mokhosi fled the country last Friday after being summoned to “clarify some issues surrounding the murder of Lt-Gen Mahao.”

Yesterday the LCD said Messrs Metsing and Mokhosi had fled in fear for their lives.

“We inform the nation that the leader (Metsing) and his deputy (Mokhosi) will not be able to take part in the national reforms,” LCD spokesperson Teboho Sekata said yesterday.

“The leader has to be at a secure place while the deputy leader has escaped the country.

“Ntate Mokhosi had to run for his life after the government asked him to report at the police station last week. What is surprising is that he is called for matters that are already before the courts of law. The question is, what business does the government have in the judiciary. This only certifies our belief that the government interferes with the judiciary,” Mr Sekata said.

Police spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, also confirmed that Mr Mokhosi fled the country last Friday after being summoned by the police.

“Ntate Mokhosi fled the country last Friday after being called by the police for interrogation regarding the murder of Ntate Maaparankoe Mahao,” Supt Mopeli said.

“I am not at liberty to reveal what connects him to the murder for those are internal affairs but all I can say is that the ongoing investigations led to him being called in but unfortunately he decided to run away,” Supt Mopeli told the Lesotho Times yesterday.

Last night the Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, also told the Lesotho Times that Mr Mokhosi was wanted as a witness because he was the Minister of Defence during the time that Lt-Gen Mahao was assassinated in 2015. He however, denied that the police were also after Mr Metsing.

He also denied allegations by some sources that a team of investigators had been dispatched to Ladybrand to question Mr Mokhosi.

“I am not aware of a team of investigators that have gone to Ladybrand but definitely Ntate Mokhosi was informed that he has to come to the police headquarters as a witness. He is the former Minister of Defence and he has to clarify some of the issues concerning Lt-Gen Mahao’s murder.

“However, he did not come. His mobile phone was answered by somebody else and we understand that he is aware that he is wanted. This is why his colleagues in the party have decided to hold a press conference to say they will bar him from coming.

“The only measures we will take with regards to the case is we are going to keep on calling him to come back and clarify some of the issues,” Commissioner Molibeli said.

The Lesotho Times however understands that a team of investigators from the DPP’s office were eager to meet Mr Mokhosi to “clarify issues” over Lt-Gen Mahao’s death and would go to meet him in South Africa nonetheless.  Sources said they doubted Mr Mokhosi would return as he feared he would be immediately arrested over Lt-Mahao’s death that occurred under his watch and which he is alleged to have “approved” before-hand in concert with Mahao’s successor, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli.

Meanwhile, the LCD Youth League has vowed to “fight to the death for truth, justice and peace after Mr Mokhosi fled the country once again.”

They said that Mr Mokhosi would not hand himself over to the police because “it was clear” they wanted to kill him this time.

The LCD Youth League deputy president, Phetho Matla, accused the government of reneging on its pledge to refrain from persecuting Mr Mokhosi and other opposition leaders to give them a chance to participate in the reforms process.

“The agreement between government and opposition was that exiled political leaders should return home to participate in the national reforms. It was agreed that they would not be tormented or troubled with the politically motivated cases as per the Clause 10 of the agreement signed, hence they came back last month.

“Apart from that, there is a case in court in which soldiers are accused of murdering Ntate Mahao. It is our understanding that no one has the right to interfere with court proceedings but then we see our police doing so by calling Ntate Mokhosi. Where were they going to take him because we believe if the courts need him regarding the case, they will summon him, not the police.

“If the police want to fight, they should wear their ruling party regalia and fight us the political way. We will fight for truth, justice and peace even if it will cost us our lives,” Mr Matla said.

Mr Mokhosi has a pending court case in connection with the murder of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng. He was charged along with former police commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa and four other police officers.

The other officers are Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Superintendent Mothibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and Police Constable Haleokoe Taasoane who are all currently on suspension from the police service.

Mr Letsoepa is in exile while the four officers are still detained in the Maseru Maximum Security Prison.

Mr Mokhosi was released on bail on 4 September 2018 and two days later he issued a statement accusing the police of forcing him to confess to killing PC Khetheng while being interrogated.

Mr Mokhosi also accused the police of torturing him and coercing him to make a false statement before the Magistrates’ Court about the circumstances surrounding PC Khetheng’s death.

Yesterday Mr Matla said the LCD would not “hand over our deputy leader to political vessels”.

“He (Mr Mokhosi) survived death the first time and he may not be that lucky this time. He may ‘get tired’ while being interrogated as that has become a common excuse that the police give when people die in their custody.

“All we want is peace in the country therefore we are in negotiations with SADC to intervene as we are willing to fix this and continue with the national reforms,” Mr Matla said.

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