Soldiers raid MP’s farm
Attack guard on duty and demand to see legislator’s Chinese business partner they accused of illegally keeping firearms
A guard looking after a farm belonging to All Basotho Convention (ABC) Member of Parliament for Qoaling constituency, Chelane Phori, was beaten-up on Sunday evening allegedly by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
Motlalepula Mpale of BB Alert Security Guards (Pty) Ltd on Tuesday told the Lesotho Times he was attacked by seven LDF members as he protected Mejametalana Fruit and Vegetable Farm in Maseru.
Mpale (30) said: “It was around 7pm on Sunday when I saw a man holding an AK47 rifle walking through the bush surrounding the farm.
“I was on my way to lock the gate when the man saw me and when I cocked my gun, he also did the same with his AK47. He continued walking towards me, and I then heard a gun being cocked behind me. When I turned, I realised I was in the centre of a circle of seven soldiers.
“One of the seven men then asked me the whereabouts of a Chinese man who also lives on the farm and is a business partner of Mr Phori. I told him he was still around but had to verify by calling the man’s farmhouse first
“I called and the phone was answered by the man’s relative, who however, said he was out at one of the local hotels and would be back at around 11pm.
“Following my conversation with the Chinese man’s relative on the phone, which I had put on loudspeaker, the soldiers said they were going to wait for him because he was illegally keeping firearms and they wanted to see him about it. The soldiers even accused me of being aware of the firearms they were talking about.
“The houses Ntate Phori and his Chinese business partner live in are far away from the gate, which was why I had to phone to find out if he was in.
“But after I had made the call, the soldiers started assaulting me for no apparent reason.
“Afterwards, I went to inform Ntate Phori about the assault and the presence of the soldiers at the farm. I also called my bosses at BB Alert to inform them of the incident. My boss told me to wait at the farm and he later came to collect me and the company’s firearm I had.
“On Monday morning, I reported the incident to Lithoteng Police Station, and was given a medical form which I took to hospital where I was attended to as an outpatient. I am badly injured in the ribs and find it difficult to bend down.”
BB Alert Director, Tšeliso Makoetje, confirmed Mr Mpale’s assault.
“I received a call from Mr Mpale’s boss informing me of the assault. I immediately asked for a vehicle to be sent to collect him.
“And on Monday, our officials took Mr Mpale to the police to report the case, and thereafter, ferried him to hospital where he was treated as an outpatient.
“The owners of the farm also assisted Mr Mpale with money to cover his medical expenses,” he said.
Mr Makoetje further said Mr Mpale managed to hang on to his service firearm despite attempts by the soldiers to take it from him.
“We are now waiting to hear from the police since the matter is now before them,” said Mr Mr Makoetje.
Asked about the incident, Mr Phori said he had to evacuate his family, as well as his partner’s, from the farm on the night in question because of the attack.
“I didn’t see the soldiers myself; what I have is a report by Mr Mpale who said they were looking for my business partner whom they accused of illegally keeping firearms at the farm.
“I don’t have any problem with soldiers or anybody authorised to search and look for firearms on my farm. My only concern is when the search is carried out at night, and the guard is assaulted in the process. I don’t see why it is difficult for the army to come and search the farm during the day,” Mr Phori said.
“On the Sunday in question, I found a way to escape from the farm together with my family, my business partner and his family. On Monday, I reported the matter to Lithoteng Police Station, and when the police came to the farm, they found a military jacket, which they took away.”
Contacted for comment on Tuesday, police spokesperson Clifford Molefe said: “I can’t say the guard was assaulted by members of the LDF; I can only confirm that the guard was assaulted and the police have started investigations over the assault.”
Asked if he was aware of the military jacket retrieved from the crime scene by Lithoteng police, Senior Inspector Molefe said: “Yes, a military top or jacket with a Royal Crown was found at the farm.”
The Lesotho Times tried to get in touch with LDF Public Affairs Officer Colonel Ntlele Ntoi yesterday to hear the army’s side of the story, but his cell-phone rang unanswered.
On the other hand, a Chinese Embassy in Maseru official said she would get back to the Lesotho Times when asked about the incident since it involved one of its nationals.