. . . as govt, police hit back
FORMER prime minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, has waded into the prosecution of Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli for murder, saying the former army commander was subjected to “inhumane and demeaning” treatment by appearing in court last week handcuffed and in leg irons.
Dr Mosisili, who is also Democratic Congress (DC) leader, has also demanded an explanation from the police for having taken “so long” to arrest people implicated in various unresolved crimes.
He also contends that the government made a “wrong move” in requesting the deployment of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby force to Lesotho, saying it would “chase away investors”.
However, Communications Minister Joang Molapo has scoffed at Dr Mosisili’s remarks, saying the former premier was not in a position to lecture the government on the rule of law “given the numerous atrocities committed under his watch”.
Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli also laughed off Dr Mosisili’s demand for an explanation, saying the former premier could have taken action against police authorities during his tenure if he was not happy with their failure to investigate the cases.
Addressing a DC conference held in Maseru over the weekend, Dr Mosisili said Lt-Gen Kamoli should not have been handcuffed and in leg irons when he appeared at the Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing last week.
The former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) chief was charged on 16 October 2017 with murdering Sub-Inspector Ramahloko during the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Lt-Gen Kamoli is jointly charged with three army officers who are also detained at Maseru Central Prison.
Captain Litekanyo Nyakane (38), Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane (34) and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa (31) were also charged with contravening provisions of section 40(1) of the Penal Code Act No. 6 of 2010.
According to the charge sheet, they fatally shot Sub-Inspector Ramahloko on the chest on 30 August 2014 at police headquarters.
Lt-Gen Kamoli and his co-accused were remanded in custody and ordered to re-appear on remand on 10 November 2017.
Lt-Gen Kamoli is separately charged with 14 counts of attempted murder over the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesiah Thabane, ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana.
“I have nothing against a person being questioned and taken to the courts of law. It actually makes me happy because this means that the due process will be followed,” Dr Mosisili said.
“I am, however, totally against the way he (Lt-Gen Kamoli) was shackled. That is an issue with me.
“I don’t understand how a man who was so cooperative and humble ends up being criminalised by being shackled on the wrists and ankles. I take issue with that because it was inhumane and demeaning.”
The DC leader also accused the police of mistreating people they summoned to assist with investigations of various crimes, citing allegations by Lesotho Congress for Democracy deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, of torture while in custody.
Mr Mokhosi was arrested on 28 August this year and charged with the murder of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng along with four police officers.
The former Defence minister was eventually released on bail and accused the police of forcing him to confess to killing PC Khetheng while being interrogated. Mr Mokhosi then fled the country citing a plot to assassinate him.
The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has vehemently denied the allegations, saying Mr Mokhosi should have alerted the magistrate of the alleged torture threats “if they were true” during his court appearance.
“The police now have a tendency of summoning people and then torturing them like the case of LCD deputy leader Tšeliso Mokhosi. If the police continues like that, they are going nowhere,” Dr Mosisili said, while appealing to the government to heed to his advice since he had been in politics long enough to “know what was good and bad governance”.
“I swear by the almighty living God that this government’s future hangs in the balance and I am advising them in good faith.”
The former premier also demanded an explanation from the police for failing to arrest people implicated in various unresolved crimes during his tenure.
Since the installation of the Dr Thabane-led four party government in June this year, a number of people — including LDF and LMPS members – have been arrested and charged for various crimes.
A warrant was also issued by a Magistrate’s Court in September for the arrest of former LMPS commissioner, Molahlehi Letsoepa, for embezzlement during his tenure at the law enforcement agency. The government is working towards extraditing Mr Letsoepa, who is exiled in South Africa, to assist with investigations into the murder of PC Khetheng.
Mr Letsoepa officially retired as LMPS commissioner on 11 September 2017 after being pushed out by Dr Thabane.
Mr Letsoepa – who was appointed by the Dr Mosisili-led former government in November 2015 – has since been replaced by Commissioner Molibeli.
“Police owe this nation an explanation on why they have never made arrests like they are doing now and explain who was impeding them from doing their job,” Dr Mosisili queried.
He called for a commission of inquiry into the 5 September 2017 assassination of LDF commander, Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo, by Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.
According to the government account of the incident, Brig Sechele had been accompanied to Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s Ratjomose Barracks office by Colonel Tefo Hashatsi and a third officer on the fateful day.
Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi had reportedly accused Lt-Gen Motšomotšo of failing to stop the prosecution of LDF members implicated in various crimes before shooting the LDF chief dead.
Brig Sechele and Col Hashatsi were eventually killed in a hail of bullets from Lt-Gen Motšomotšo’s bodyguards as they left the office complex.
Dr Mosisili said his government requested SADC to establish a commission of inquiry into the 25 June 2015 killing of Maaparankoe Mahao by his erstwhile colleagues.
“I set up a commission when one army officer had been killed and they are failing to set up one when all three officers including an army commander were killed,” he said.
“I engaged SADC to ensure transparency and, unfortunately, they hijacked the commission and started calling it theirs. Why don’t they set it up their own now?”
He said the deployment of SADC troops into the country was a wrong move. Lesotho requested for a standby force from the region comprising of 1 099 troops, 30 civilians, 34 police officers, one pathologist, four scuba divers and a police mobile unit. SADC security chiefs are finalising the modalities of the standby force’s deployment at the bloc’s headquarters in Botswana.
“I urge Prime Minister Thabane to desist from making this move (deployment) because it is going to impact negatively on this country’s economy,” Dr Mosisili said.
“You have erred in this move of deploying SADC troops in Lesotho Ntate Thabane.
“I don’t understand what the SADC troops are coming to do in the country when police are effecting the arrests without any problems. I wonder if they know the implications of deploying a foreign army in another country as this is a signal that all is not well. This is going to impact negatively on our economy and is going to chase away investors.”
The former premier said his government was accused of refusing to implement the SADC recommendations, “whereas in actual fact we only wanted to tread carefully”.
“That is why we even relieved Kamoli of his duties as an army commander. It’s because we needed to be careful with how to handle this issue. That’s why we even tabled the General Amnesty Bill in Parliament.”
He also urged the government to be sincere in talks to bring back three exiled opposition leaders, adding that there would be no implementation of multi-sectoral reforms in their absence.
In addition to Mr Mokhosi, LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing and DC deputy leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, fled to South Africa separately in August this year.
The trio skipped the country citing tip-offs from “trusted sources” about plots to assassinate them and alleged persecution by the government.
However, the government has since said they would not achieve anything in persecuting the opposition. Chief Molapo stressed in a previous interview that the prosecution of people implicated in various unresolved crimes should not be conflated with persecution.
“The government is playing with fire and is not serious with this matter of bringing back the exiled leaders,” Dr Mosisili charged.
“There is no way they can talk to them without engaging us. All they are doing is trying to impress the international community so that they think the government is doing something positive.”
Responding to Dr Mosisili’s claims yesterday, Chief Molapo said the DC leader was not in a position to lecture the government on the rule of law.
“Mosisili cannot teach us about respecting the rule of law because in his time, people were being abducted day and night by men wearing balaclavas,” he said.
“He had his turn to rule and failed dismally. Mosisili made Kamoli think he was above the law and we won’t accept any lectures from him.”
For his part, Commissioner Molibeli expressed surprise at Dr Mosisili’s demand for an explanation from the police, saying the former premier was “clowning”.
“How can Ntate Mosisili say that surely? Ntate Mosisili was the prime minister, and if he was not happy with the LMPS’s operations, he would have taken action against the police commissioner at the time (Mr Letsoepa),” said Commissioner Molibeli.
“But he found nothing wrong with the police’s conduct.”
The top cop also said there was nothing untoward about the handcuffing of Lt-Gen Kamoli by the correctional authorities, adding that it was standard practice to secure a suspect to prevent them from escaping.