The acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) â€˜Makhotso Mahosi (pictured) last week narrated her ordeal in the hands of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) investigators last month.
â€œI was interrogated by these officials of the 1st Respondent (DCEO) in the most intimidating and threatening manner and my rights as a suspect as I was labelled while there were trampled upon as a shall demonstrate,â€ Mahosi said in court papers filed last Tuesday.
â€œIn a nutshell, I was told that I had received a bribe from certain contractors in order to facilitate their payments and that I had paid the said contractors illegally and further that I should return the said money I had been paid by the said contractors,â€ she added.
She further told the High Court that she refuted the said allegations and the investigators were not happy with her explanation.
â€œI was informed that I was going to be detained for days without food, no one will be allowed to visit me while in detention and further that my family will not even know that I had been detained, and further that I will only be released when I was ready to accept their version,â€ she said.
Mahosi said at the time she was taken for interrogation by DCEO, she lived with her 10-year-old child and in fear of being detained, she was at around 6:00 pm, forced to accept all the allegations that were levelled against her.
â€œThey had initially said I should disclose where I had hidden an amount of M2,500,000 I received from different contractors and I had denied the allegation and indicated that the only money in my possession as the treasurer was the society money in an amount of M500,000 that was going to be shared on December 22, 2022 between the three members of the society inclusive of myself,â€ she narrated.
She said the investigators forced her to accept that M500,000 belonging to the society was given to her by the contractors as a bribe and had no choice but to change her story.
â€œIt was suggested to me that the said M500,000 came from one Mr Ketso while the other two million came from different contractors. They sought me to go and show them where the money was,â€ she said.
She further indicated that she was forced to go and show the investigators where the rest of the money had been kept.
She left with four investigators and proceeded to her house at Ha Matala, Phase 1, in Maseru at around 7:00 pm.
She said the investigators searched her bedroom but did not find anything.
The investigators then forced her to go to Mafeteng to â€˜Majeremane Mohlabaneâ€™s house leaving her child alone at 8:00 pm, she said.
While on the way, she said she was given her phone and directed to call Mohlabane and notify her that she was coming to her house.
â€œWe went to Mafeteng Police Station and we were accompanied by one police officer called Seutloali to Matholeng at the 2nd applicantâ€™s premises. I and the officials of DCEO proceeded to the 2nd Applicantâ€™s bedroom and the said officials searched the kiosk and retrieved the money in a plastic bag and the society book,â€ she said.
The money was M500,000 as she had indicated.
â€œThe society book was perused by these officials and they indeed confirmed that the records correspond with the information I explained to them earlier,â€ she said.
Mahosi told the court that the investigators told her that the money will be used as an exhibit.
From Mafeteng, she said, the investigators dropped her off at her office at around 11:00 pm, gave her the phones, and told her to report herself at the DCEO offices the following day, December 13, 2022, to make a written statement.
â€œI was strongly warned not to communicate with anyone let alone my lawyers. I duly adhered to the demand.
â€œOn the next day, at around 9:30 am, I proceeded to the offices of the DCEO as directed and I was informed that I have to go before the Magistrate to make a confession.â€
She said she pleaded with the investigators and requested to be given some time to digest the issue and her request was accepted.
â€œI was then interrogated further by about eight male and three female in terms of which I was threatened and forced to implicate certain people otherwise I would be charged and lose everything I had worked for. In order to save my skin, I had no choice but to do as I was directed.
â€œAfter some time, I was shown a typed document and informed that same was my statement. The said statement was read to me but due to stress, could not comprehend what was written save to say I was forced to accept that the money came from one Baba ketsi.â€
She said she was then directed to sign the statement and she did.
â€œIt is material to disclose that during the interrogation, my phones were taken, I was not allowed to call any person. I was not allowed to go for lunch and my constitutional rights were not explained to me and I was not even given an opportunity to call my lawyer,â€ she said.
She said she was only able to arrange and consult her current lawyer, advocate Rethabile Setlojoane, on December 19 and advised accordingly and informed for the first time that as a suspect as she was labelled, she had certain rights.
Mahosi then instructed her Attorneys of record to institute an application and to recover the society money and the book that were seized. The application was filed in the court on Tuesday this week.
Mahosi is the first applicant while Mohlabane is the second applicant.
They want DCEO to show cause, if any, why the seizure of money to the tune of M500,000 and society book that were Mahosiâ€™s possession cannot be declared null and void.
They further want DCEO to also show cause why the search and seizure of Mahosiâ€™s premises without search warrant and the resultant execution shall not be declared null and void and of no legal force and effect.
The court should also order and direct DCEO to release to Mahosi an amount of M500,000 and a society book that were in her possession and control.
It should direct DCEO to allow them to be interviewed in the presence of their lawyers whenever they are called for interrogation pending finalization of the matter.
Mahosi also told the court that on Friday, January 6, 2023 one Thibela accompanied by the other DCEO investigators, arrived at her work place and seized documents and directed her to report at their office.
â€œI immediately called my lawyer Advocate Setlojoane and appraised him accordingly, he advised me that he will phone Mr Thibela and request that I should be interrogated in his presence.â€
She said Setlojoane called Thibeli and informed him that he had been instructed to represent her and pleaded with Thibeli that she should be interrogated in his presence as he was readily available to report at the DCEO offices.
â€œWhen my lawyer called Mr Thibeli, he was already in my office and I was able to hear the response of Mr Thibeli to my Lawyer. Mr Thibeli was extremely furious when my lawyer called him and he informed my lawyer that indeed I had been directed to report at their offices and further that it was not necessary to be interrogated in the presence of my lawyer as I was going to be interrogated on issues relating to my duty and the request was on that basis refused,â€ she said.
She added that Setlojoaneâ€™s request to go to the office was disproved but nonetheless insisted to go to the DCEOâ€™s office where he was denied entry but advised her not answer questions that would implicate her or those that she does not feel comfortable to answer.
Upon arrival, my phones were seized and I was interrogated, all the questions were personal and as advised I requested to be given an opportunity to consult my lawyer, I was crucified and informed that I would be arrested together with my lawyer,â€ she said.