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Former senior officers testify in murder case

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Mohloai Mpesi

Two former senior members of the security forces, the military and police respectively led evidence in the matter where 10 soldiers are being charged for the slaughter of three civilians.

The sixth witness in the matter, Major General Lineo Poopa pointed out how Major Pitso Ramoepana had been fuming with anger after learning about the release of the deceased by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) following their brief apprehension.

Poopa who served as the Commissioner of Lesotho to Malaysia for three years before becoming Acting Commander of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) from September 6, 2017 to January 23, 2018, told the court of Justice Moroke Mokhosi, that Ramoepana was reporting to him after he had taken reign of the armed forces following Lieutenant General Khoantle Motšomotšo’s visit to South Africa in 2017.

“It happened that in May Motšomotšo, Major General Letsoela and Brigadier Mphaki went to South Africa on SADC meeting. I was then Acting Commander in the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Major Ramoepana was commanding the Military Intelligence,” he said.

The accused in the case are Major Pitso Ramoepana, Rapele Mphaki, Lekhooa Moepi, Mahlele Moeletsi, Mahlomola Makhoali, Nthathakane Motanyane, Motsoane Machai, Liphapang Sefako, Nemase Faso and Tieho Tikiso.

The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members are charged for allegedly strangling Lekhoele Noko, Khothatso Makibinyane and Molise Pakela and supposedly throwing their lifeless bodies into the Mohale dam on May 16, 2017.

“He (Ramoepana) reported that he was hurt by fact that the police were releasing the suspects who had killed a soldier. He seemed to be very angry.

“I advised him to let the police do their job; I said as soldiers we should not do anything stupid. According to how angry he was I realised he might take matters into his own hands, but he agreed with me then the briefing continued on other matters,” he said.

He said he was told by Motšomotšo when he returned from South Africa that some of the suspects were later released by the police in respect to the shooting of the two soldiers and a street vendor, and that the suspects were also missing.

This he said after the fourth witness, the retired Senior Superintendent Api Letsie provided his evidence in Chief that the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) are suspect in the killing of the three civilians.

Letsie who retired on December 7, 2020 said in May 2017, he got a report from the Border Post Police Station regarding a shootout that had broken-out at the border-gate and about three people were shot. He said two members of the army were shot along with one street vendor.

“I hurried there because I was already in town, I met Sub-Inspector Ramohau who was on duty and gave me a report of what happened, and there were other senior military officers, although they were not wearing uniform, next to the scene.

“I asked where the suspects were and she took me to them at the police station where they were kept,” he said.

He said they called the six suspects one by one including Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela, Khothatso Makibinyane, Motlatsi Rantone, Tello Tally and Lekhotla Motaung.

“We questioned them to find out what happened and there were Senior Officers including Phaila and Brigadier Mphaki. Ramohau came in and reported that there were many soldiers outside who looked angry, so we had to take the suspects to the CID offices at Pitso Ground after realizing that the anger might be directed to them,” he told the court. 

After the investigations and interrogations were completed, he said they found that one Rantoane was the suspect hence he was charged in the high court and remanded on May 16, 2017 while the other five were released.

He continued that on May 18, one ‘Malekhoele Noko arrived at his office and reported that she was the mother of Lekhoele Noko who was apprehended.

He said the woman recounted that after his son had just been released from the CID offices, she boarded a bus with him to Leribe and when they arrived at Lekokoaneng in Berea they heard sounds of gun shots and the driver of the bus pulled over, after which men with big guns had entered the bus and taken his son by force and loaded him in their car and sped off.

“I ordered that Superintendent Setsomi open a case of kidnapping which was taken to the district of Berea under their jurisdiction,” he said.   

As if that was not enough, he continued that he further received a report from Senior Motjoetlane who was stationed at the office of Robbery and Car Theft Squad (RCTS) situated at Airfield in Flying Doctors at Mejametalana airbase that three men had arrived there saying they were running away from a car that was following them, he said the car looked like LDF car. He said they were Tello Tholi along with his brother and father.

“On July 12 ‘Makhothatso Makibinyane arrived at the office, reporting that her two children, Khothatso Makibinyane and Molise Pakela had not arrived home after they were released from the police offices. I also ordered superintendent Setsomi to write that in our Occurrence Book” he said.    

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