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Rogue soldiers jailed

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — Three army officers were on Tuesday jailed after they were found guilty of killing a police officer during political disturbances that rocked the country in 1998.

Monyane Mokoatsi will spend five years behind prison bars while Thapelo Ntaopane and Bulare Moiloa will serve a four-year jail term for the murder.

The trio was found guilty of killing Bonang Serabele at Mafeteng police station in 1998.

The soldiers told the court that they stormed Mafeteng police station looking for firearms to fight off invading South African Defence Force soldiers.

The South African soldiers had on September 22 1998 invaded Lesotho and seized Makoanyane barracks following political disturbances that rocked the country.

Some senior army officers were detained by their juniors during the mayhem.

The soldiers shot the police officer as they sought to seize some guns from the police station.

They robbed the Mafeteng police station of some guns and ammunition with the help of Rasebolelo Maboee, a police officer.

Four other soldiers, who were part of the rampaging group, were also convicted for armed robbery.

They were slapped with seperate four-year prison sentences.

Maboee was sentenced to five years in prison for armed robbery.

The group was accused of robbing the Mafeteng government hospital of medical supplies.

The gang also robbed a Mafeteng hotel of some food and liquor.

Maboee was then sentenced to five years for his involvement in the robbery at his work place.

“I fail to understand why accused number one (Maboee) joined the attack against his colleagues,” High Court Judge Thamsanqa Nomncongo said.

Nomncongo said the killing of the police officer and the robbery in Mafeteng were not called for despite the then prevailing circumstances.

“I agree that the battle they had at Makoanyane barracks might have traumatised the accused.

“However the accused had plenty of time to reflect.

“I fail to see how the situation could have led to disarming the police,” Justice Nomncongo said.

However, the sentences will run concurrently.

Effectively Maboee and Mokoatsi will spend five years behind prison bars, while the six soldiers will serve four-year prison terms.

However, Justice Nomncongo expressed his disappointment that the case had taken too long to be finalised.

He said this is against the public policy which requires that court cases are finalised quickly.

“Public policy requires that there should be expedition in prosecution of cases,” Justice Nomncongo said.

The violent crimes took place in 1998 but the accused were only indicted in 2003.

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