MASERU — Three soldiers were on Tuesday locked behind prison bars after the High Court found them guilty of killing a police woman during the 1998 political disturbances.
Thapelo Ntaopane, Monyane Mokoatsi and Bulare Moiloa, were among a group of soldiers who went to Mafeteng police station in search of firearms and ammunition after the Makoanyane barracks was overrun by South African soldiers in September 1998.
The soldiers, after escaping from Makoanyane barracks on September 23 1998, planned to get firearms and ammunition from Mafeteng police station to fight back.
The prosecution said on arrival at Mafeteng police station, the soldiers demanded firearms and ammunition from the police.
In demanding the firearms, the soldiers shot and killed a police woman, Bonang Serabele, who was running towards the radio room at the police station.
High Court Judge Thamsanqa Nomncongo on Tuesday found the three soldiers guilty of murdering Serabele.
Justice Nomncongo said it appeared during the trial that the soldiers had told the Mafeteng police commander, Major Makaliana, on arrival that they wanted guns to rescue their colleagues who were still fighting the South African soldiers at Makoanyane barracks.
“But they made it clear that if there was any resistance from the police they would have to kill.
“A group of soldiers that left Matala intended to get arms and medicine at Mafeteng.
“Resistance must have been foreseen that could have caused the death.
“Since the police woman was posing a threat to them she was shot,” Justice Nomncongo said.
He said after the police woman was shot, Makaliana and some of the junior officers were driven to the armoury at gun point where the soldiers took some rifles that included AK 47, Self Loading Rifles (SLR), Galilee and some ammunition.
The three soldiers have also been convicted of armed robbery together with other four men who included three soldiers and a police officer.
They were found guilty of robbing the police of guns and ammunition, medical supplies at Mafeteng government hospital as well as food and liquor at Mafeteng Hotel.
They were also convicted of forcefully taking petrol, diesel and two government vans at Matelile roads camp.
Justice Nomncongo will deliver sentence later this month after the soldiers’ lawyers have addressed the court on mitigation.
A defence lawyer, Advocate Ts’upane Maieane, told the court that the defence team needed time to prepare its addresses on mitigation and extenuation for those who have been convicted of murder.
The case was postponed to April 20 for extenuation and mitigation.
The three soldiers who were convicted of murder were sent to prison but the bail was extended until April 20 for others who were convicted on armed robbery.