INVESTIGATIONS are continuing into the near-fatal shooting of the Lesotho Times Editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, in July last year, the Magistrate’s Court heard yesterday.
The progress report in the case in which five army officers are facing the attempted murder charges was presented before the Magistrate’s Court by the Maseru District Public Prosecutor, Gcinimusi Tshabalala.
The five are Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Khutlang Mochesane (57) from Ha-Makhoathi, Mahanyane Phasumane (37) from Masowe, Nyatso Tšoeunyane (41) from Lesobeng, Ha-Khupiso in Thaba-Tseka and Maribe Nathane from Leribe.
They first appeared before the Magistrate’s Court two weeks ago on attempted murder charges and were remanded in custody after being told to apply to the High Court for bail.
According to the charge the five army officers shot Mr Mutungamiri at his home, Upper Thamae, in the late hours of the 9 July 2016 after he had knocked off from work.
Magistrate, ‘Mamorojele Qoo, ordered them to appear again on remand on 27 December 2017 after Mr Tshabalala yesterday informed the magistrate that investigations were continuing before a date of hearing could be set.
Mr Mutungamiri was shot and critically wounded as he arrived at his Upper Thamae home from work in the late hours of 9 July 2016 in what appeared to be a carefully orchestrated assassination attempt.
His shooting followed a rough week for the Lesotho Times during which its staff, including current Editor, Ngoni Muzofa, were summoned for heavy-handed interrogation by police and military officials over reports the newspaper had published about the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
Publisher and chief executive officer, Basildon Peta, was charged with criminal defamation arising from a complaint laid against the newspaper by then LDF commander, Tlali Kamoli. A week later, Mr Mutungamiri nearly lost his life after one of the bullets shattered his lower jaw, requiring him to undergo specialized facial surgery, among other injuries.
The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) said that its investigations had revealed that the attempted assassination of Mr Mutungamiri was an operation authorised by the army.
Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, told the Lesotho Times that their original suspicions that the army operation was probably organised after the “squabble” between the Lesotho Times and the LDF over reports carried in this newspaper about the LDF.
“The army’s dissatisfaction arose from what was said by the Lesotho Times in one of its editions sometime last year after which the LDF complained that they were not satisfied with the way the publication handled their issues.”
Lt-Gen Kamoli was also miffed by a satirical parody in the Scrutator column about the former LDF commander’s perceived influence in politics at that time. Scrutator had joked about a hypothetical “invasion” of a cabinet meeting by Lt-Gen Kamoli to prove his power by “ordering ministers to perform push-ups”. But the former army commander failed to appreciate the spoof and instead instituted criminal defamation charges with him being cited as the main complainant.
Mr Peta is still in court over the criminal defamation charges, preferred against him in his capacity as publisher and chief executive officer of the company.
Lt-Gen Kamoli was forced to retire on 1 December 2016, in line with a recommendation by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) whose Mphapi Phumaphi commission of inquiry had recommended his ouster from the command of the LDF as part of a rafter of measures to achieve stability in Lesotho.
Africa Media Holdings (AMH), the publishers of the Lesotho Times, have since commended Commissioner Molibeli and the LMPS for their sterling work in bringing the perpetrators of the dastardly act to book.