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‘Soldiers disobeyed orders and saved Thabane’

by Lesotho Times
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Staff Writer

PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane narrowly escaped during the 30 August 2014 coup attempt after two Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officers disobeyed their superior and instead decided to escort him and his wife out of state house in a private car.

The two officers had been ordered by their superior to wake up Dr Thabane who was thought to be already asleep on the night of 29 August 2014.

The two officers were also told to ensure that Dr Thabane summoned then and current minister, Thesele Maseribane and former police commissioner, Khothatso Tsooana to his State House residence for a meeting with senior army officers as the attempted coup unfolded during the early hours of the 30th of August 2014.

Dr Thabane subsequently fled into exile in South Africa.

The Lesotho Times recently obtained a confidential report prepared by a leading law firm which lifted the lead on the events that transpired before and during the attempted coup against the first government of Dr Thabane in August 2014.

The law firm was commissioned by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) last November to help in formulating the charges to be preferred against all the culprits involved in the 30 August 2014 attempted coup.

The report shows that at least three cabinet ministers in the first Thabane coalition, which ruled from 2012 to 2015, and 15 LDF officers will face a plethora of charges including treason for their part in the 30 August 2014 events. The Lesotho Times is nonetheless withholding publishing their names for professional reasons.

The charges will range from high treason, kidnapping, attempted murder to unlawful damage to property.

The DPP consulted the leading law firm for a legal opinion on the August 2014 events. The DPP’s office requested the law firm to state whether or not there were any prosecutable offences arising from the army’s raids on various police stations which set off a chain of events culminating in Dr Thabane’s flight to South Africa that year. Dr Thabane only returned to Lesotho under heavy South African police guard.

The DPP had also asked the law firm to state the offences committed as well as to identify the individuals and/ or entities that were criminally culpable for the offences so identified.

The firm was requested to prepare and tabulate a list of charges that could be preferred against the suspects.

The law firm has since submitted its report to the DPP’s office. The report advises that three former ministers and 15 soldiers be charged with treason, contravention of internal security regulations, murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault kidnapping or unlawful detention, robbery and malicious or unlawful damage to property, among others.

The three former ministers, according to the law firm’s report, “met with the army officers and planned and executed the operation of 29-30 August 2014”.

“The salient facts that led to the events of 30 August 2014 was the removal of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli on 29 August 2014 by the then Prime Minister Thabane and appointment of the late Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao as the commander.

“This move by Dr Thabane became unpopular and was not well received by Lt-Gen Kamoli and most of the army command as well as some coalition partners in government, in particular, members of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

“In the evening of 29 August 2014, the removed army commander Lt-Gen Kamoli called an urgent meeting of senior members of the LDF at Makoanyane Barracks (in Maseru),” the law firm chronicled.

The report shows that a leading former LDF officer then ordered attacks on police stations in Maseru. He also ordered two of his subordinates to go to the State House to ensure that Dr Thabane would not escape.

“At the official home of the Prime Minister, there were no weapons taken or property that was destroyed.

“However two army majors were ordered by their superior of the rank of Lieutenant General to wake up PM Thabane who was then expected to call Honourable Maseribane and Compol Tsooana to the State House for a meeting with the army command,” the report reveals.

“Upon arrival at the State House, one of the majors instead secretly escorted Dr Thabane and his partner in a private car that was driven by a relative of the Prime Minister in the company of one Dr Thabane’s children.

“In the early hours of 30 August 2014 at 3:30am, the Lieutenant General arrived at the State House only to discover that Dr Thabane had secretly been escorted out the State House against his orders. It should also be mentioned that at the time the Lieutenant General arrived at the State House, there were a lot of members of the LDF in the yard of the State House. The Lieutenant General appeared very furious that PM Thabane had been allowed to escape.”

The report also lifts a lid on the army raids that occurred at various police stations including the Police Headquarters in Maseru on the night of 29-30 August 2014.

According to the report, Police Sub-Inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko was the overall commander of the Police Headquarters on that night.

Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was on duty with other police officers namely, Sergeant Thamae, Police Constables (PCs) Litulo, Hlalane, Mahanetsa, None, Thaane and Sgt Mohlomi.

“Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was fatally shot by members of the LDF. The other police officers were assaulted by the soldiers who forced them to roll on the floor while being assaulted with rifles and kicked all over their bodies.

“PC Litulo was held at gunpoint and forced to open the armoury and offices where high profile case dockets were kept. The firearms forcibly taken by soldiers were three AK47 rifles and 120 rounds of ammunition. Motor vehicle and motor bike keys were also forcefully taken and the police officers were victims of attempted murder and assaults by the soldiers,” the documents state.

The report further states that at the Koalabata police station, some heavily armed members of the LDF “in furtherance of their unlawful actions” attacked Lt-Sgt Mokhoromeng and PCs Moeketsi and Komota who were driving a police vehicle. PC Moeketsi sustained an injury on the right elbow and the vehicle was damaged.

That same evening other soldiers attacked the home of the late Lt-Gen Mahao who had just been appointed commander of the LDF by Dr Thabane.

“The house of Lt-Gen Mahao was badly damaged and a dog was killed,” the report shows.

Lt-Gen Mahao was later demoted by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven parties’ coalition government which came to power in 2015. He was later shot and killed on 25 June 2015 by fellow soldiers.

The LDF claimed Lt-Gen Mahao had resisted arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny when he was killed but that claim was later dismissed as false by a Southern African Development Community (SADC) inquiry into his death.

Lt-Gen Mahao’s family accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.

Further attempts by the LDF to locate Chief Maseribane at his house on the night of 29-30 August proved futile as he had already fled after behind tipped off, the reports states.

“With the foregoing background, it becomes evident that the events of the 29th and 30th of August 2014 are tantamount to acts of treason,” the report states.

The government recently told the SADC heads of state that investigations into the 2014 attempted coup were almost complete and arrests would soon be made.

The government further said that treason charges would be preferred on the suspects who include some soldiers who are already in custody facing other charges.

“The investigation into the treason case where radio stations were closed and the State House invaded by the army, where the Right Honourable Prime Minister Dr Thabane narrowly escaped and skipped the country, is almost complete.

“It is pending the arrest of the suspects and joining others who are already in the Maseru Central Correctional institution awaiting trial for various other charges who will also be formally charged before courts of law for treason,” the government said in its report to SADC.

Former army commander, Lt-Gen Kamoli is currently in custody at the Maximum Security Prison awaiting a murder trial in connection with the 30 August 2014 killing of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko. He also faces a plethora of other attempted murder charges.

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