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61 officers implicated in inmate’s death

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

Assistant Commissioner Tsoto Manaka has identified 61 Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) officers from security footage linked to the alleged assault and subsequent death of inmate Bokang Tsoako.

The footage, captured on December 22, last year, shows Tsoako being returned to the Maseru Central Correctional Institution (MCCI) after escaping the previous night.

Tsoako was one of six inmates who fled the prison on December 21, 2023. He was recaptured the following day and brought back to MCCI, where he was allegedly assaulted by numerous LCS officers.

Later, Tsoako was transported to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH), where he was declared dead.

Assistant Commissioner Manaka, testifying before the Commission of Inquiry this week, detailed the harrowing contents of the footage.

“I identified at least 61 officers present during Tsoako’s arrival and subsequent assault,” Manaka stated. Among those identified were senior officials, including Senior Assistant Commissioner Phoka Scout, Superintendent Mafatle, Superintendent Lekhatla, Superintendent Ramangoane, Assistant Superintendent Mokhesuoe, Assistant Superintendent Mosiloane, Chief Officer Marai, and Chief Officer Ratšele.

Manaka provided a chilling account of the events depicted in the footage.

“As soon as Tsoako exited the vehicle, Chief Officer Marai was the first to strike him with a stick (Molamu),” he recounted. “Chief Officer Mpokothi is then seen pushing him into a wall, causing Tsoako to collide face and chest first. Chief Officer Posa followed, hitting him with a stick, causing him to collapse to the floor.”

The brutality continued unabated.

“Once Tsoako stood up, Sergeant Raboshabane struck him on the knees with a stick,” Manaka continued. “Chief Officer Ratšele is seen hitting him again until he was inside an office. Although the cameras didn’t clearly show the interior, the movements suggest the assault continued.”

A momentary pause occurred with the arrival of Senior Assistant Commissioner Scout according to Manaka.

“It appeared he instructed the attackers to stop. They ceased for about two minutes while he was in the office. However, the moment Scout left, the assault seemed to resume,” Manaka explained.

The inquiry, led by High Court Justice Realeboha Mathaba with members Mojalefa Thulo, former commissioner of LCS, and Kelebone Maope, former deputy prime minister, was established to investigate the escape of inmates from MCCI, the alleged torture of inmates, and the death of Tsoako.

The Commission heard from Thulo that the Correctional Service Act 2016, specifically section 37, regulates the use of force by correctional officers. Thulo stated, “It is a significant offense for a junior officer to assault an inmate in the presence of senior officers, reflecting a severe breach of discipline.”

Thulo added that the correctional service still adheres to 1957 rules, which mandate minimal use of force. “Rule 39 clearly states how inmates should be handled, prohibiting unnecessary force,” he noted.

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