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Soldier speaks of brutal torture

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — A former captain alleged to have been involved in the 2007 political disturbances has spoken out about his brutal torture at the hands of military police officers who accused him of being linked to the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party.

Ramabele Mokhantsó said he was subjected to electric shocks, suffocation and beating by the officers who accused him of also disrespecting the army commander Lt General Thuso Motanyane (pictured).

Mokhantsó suffered the ordeal in June 2007 but this is the first time he has publicly talked about the graphic details about his agony. 

He said he fainted several times during the torture session and each time the officers splashed him with water to revive him.

And when he came to, the officers would continue inflicting pain on his body. 

He said so serious was the ordeal that it forced him into early retirement.

He retired on July 7 this year, according to his letter for early retirement seen by the Lesotho Times.

Mokhantsó said his hand had to be operated to treat blood clotting that had occurred because his hands were tightly bound by handcuffs and a chain.

“An electric cord was plugged to the wall and brought in contact with the chain tying both my hands and feet together,” Mokhantsó said.

“A black rubber tube was placed close to my face. They would suffocate me with it, tightly blocking my mouth and nose.

“They also pulled at my genitals, all the while promising me that I could never in my life have sex because ‘it could never again get up’.

“They would suffocate me at intervals, only stopping when I was totally out of breath and pour cold water over me to revive me. Then every time after pouring water on me they would torture me with an electric cord.

He said he screamed. 

“As I called out to my mother at one point, Sergeant Mahlala said, ‘Die you, Devil!’

“As the torture continued they told me that I had spoilt the army commander’s meeting by talking too much. 

“There came a point when I was numb and drifting in and out of consciousness. Eventually my feet were set free.”

He said his clothes were soaked in blood and water. 

“I was driven to the military police detention cells in Makoanyane. The cell I was allocated had just a toilet, a bed with no mattress or blankets,” he said.

His hands and legs were tied again. 

“I was in and out of consciousness but I can still recall they had an argument because they could not agree on whether I should be tied up that way again. But they did it anyway.”

He stayed in the cell for three days without food.

Mokhantsó said his troubles seemed to have been triggered by statements he made to the army commander during one meeting he had with senior officers to find out why and how the soldiers guarding the ministers’ homes had been disarmed during the attacks. 

In that June 14, 2007 meeting Mokhantsó told the commander that his observation was that soldiers were not doing their job well because they reported for work drunk and therefore slept on duty.

“That was my genuine observation. But very unfortunately it angered some of the most senior officers.”  

He said he stopped narrating his observation midway. The next day when he reported for duty at Ratjomose Barracks he was summoned by the military police.

He said the military police officers told him that his statements during the meeting had angered the commander. 

“I asked them to ask for forgiveness on my behalf from the commander.”

They let him go.

His nightmare however really began on June 17 

when he was attacked and disarmed at Lower Thamae while on his way to check on his battalion that had been attacked while manning a roadblock.

This was during the skirmishes that rocked Lesotho around that time.

He said despite the incident he proceeded to Lakeside but as soon as he arrived there trouble started.  

“When I reached Lakeside, my military colleagues were already there. There were however no soldiers in sight. I explained to them what happened. The two officers who called to inform me about the battalion attack also came and I related the chain of events to them.

“We drove back to the place where I was attacked and inspected the area. The officers were not happy and indicated their discontentment by going back into their cars and driving off. They were disappointed with me.

“I went back to Lakeside. The standby commandoes found me there and they held a roadblock for a while.

“Colonel Pasane asked me to go and explain to the military police who were now at Lakeside what happened. There was a mysterious Toyota Tazz there. Pasane gave orders that I should be apprehended on the spot.” 

He was handcuffed and forced into the Toyota Tazz.

Mokhantsó said when the car reached Ratjomose Barracks he was immediately taken to Military Intelligence wing.

With his hands still tied behind his back he was ordered to sit down on a chair and the interrogation and torture then began.

An officer at the LDF public relations office, Mashili Mashili, said due to the sensitive nature of the issues raised by Mokhantsó, he was not at liberty to comment.

 “For now we cannot provide any comment. This story involves a lot of people and therefore warrants extensive consultation and investigation based on the sensitivity of the story. We can only comment once the investigations are concluded.”

Mashili could however not provide a specific time of comment citing that some of the people implicated by Mokhantsó in his torture account were either out of the country or retired.

However, Mashili stressed that there is nowhere in the military structures where torture is enshrined as law.

“The military does not condone torture nor does it use it to enforce discipline,” Mashili said.

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