HIGH Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi on Monday ordered the release of detained army Captain Seabata Chaka from the Maseru Maximum Security Prison on the grounds of ill-health.
Justice Monaphathi ordered that Captain Chaka be placed under open arrest after he found that the prison was not conducive to his health after he underwent a surgical operation two weeks ago.
The judge also ordered him to report twice a day to army authorities but did not state whether this should be at Makoanyane or Ratjomose Barracks. He was also ordered to surrender his travel documents and service firearm to the army authorities.
Captain Chaka is among the 23 LDF members who were arrested between May and June 2015 for allegedly plotting to violently remove the LDF command. Seven of the soldiers have since been released from Maseru Maximum Security Prison and placed under open arrest, which is a form of bail in the military. Captain Chaka becomes the eighth detainee to be released.
The LDF says the alleged plot was masterminded by former army commander Maaparankoe Mahao, who was shot dead in Mokema on 25 June 2015 by soldiers who had come to arrest him for the suspected rebellion.
The ruling followed last Friday’s urgent application filed before the court by Captain Chaka’s wife ’Matšepang Chaka in which she was seeking an order compelling LDF commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli and the Defence and National Security Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi to place him under open arrest.
Ms Chaka made the application after her husband’s lawyers, Legal Link Chambers, on 13 September this year wrote a letter to Lt-Gen Kamoli requesting the officer’s release so he could be placed under open arrest.
The lawyers had argued their client suffered from “severe osteoa theritis and anchiosed hip” which they said had been exacerbated by the detention.
However, Lt-Gen Kamoli had responded to the missive with a “show cause” letter to Captain Chaka, saying he had a feeling part of the correspondence referred to him as an enemy, while another seemed to “belittle” the army commander.
On 30 September 2016, Captain Chaka lodged an urgent application before the High Court seeking to block his looming dismissal by Lt-Gen Kamoli.
However, on 7 October 2016, Lt-Gen Kamoli wrote another letter to Captain Chaka revoking the “show cause” letter.
Ms Chaka subsequently made the urgent application after abortive attempts by the two parties to reach an out of court settlement. She argued her husband’s health had “deteriorated badly” due to his continued detention.
She said following his operation at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital, Captain Chaka was taken back to Maseru Maximum Security Prison on 19 October this year “despite his obvious pain and ill-health”.
Justice Monaphathi’s judgment came after the case proceeded before him on Thursday and Friday last week, as well as on Monday this week.