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LDF commander sued over torture


Mohloai Mpesi

The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela faces a lawsuit for the alleged callous torture of one of his soldiers, Corporal Litšitso Mahase.

Corporal Mahase was among the soldiers who were allegedly subjected to torture in 2015 at Setibing on allegations that he was part of a legion of soldiers who attempted mutiny against the then commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.

Kamoli was arrested in October 2017 over the murder of Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao on June 25, 2015.

The trial is ongoing before Justice Charles Hungwe where he is incarcerated alongside Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, Captain Haleo Makara, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Sergeant Motsamai Fako, Corporal Marasi Moleli, Corporal Motsoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko, and Corporal TÅ¡itso Ramoholi.

The accused in the matter claimed that he (Mahao) was shot and killed while resisting lawful arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny against Kamoli.

Mahase was allegedly accused of conniving with Mahao and prominent figures such as the then leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Thesele ‘Maseribane, to overthrow Kamoli-led command.

He said he endured torture at the hands of the military.

Major General Poqa Motoa has already testified before the court that he was part of the people who were subjected to inhuman torture where his hands and feet were chained behind his back and thumped to a pulp.

One James Mahase, who is Mahase’s brother told this publication that as of Wednesday this week, Mahase was detained at the military holding cell on allegations of ‘absent without leave.’

He said the current command of the LDF continued to harass his brother by invading his home alleging that he occupied big guns.

According to Mahase’s court papers, he was in February 2023 unlawfully detained and tortured for roughly 15 days and denied the right to seek medical attention and care.

He said this was after he attempted to fight for his due compensation benefits as directed by the 10-member commission, led by Botswana High Court judge, Mpaphi Phumaphi which was deployed in September 2015 and concluded its work in early November 2015.

His attempt to claim compensation seems to have angered the commander of the LDF. 

In his papers, he revealed that he has been diagnosed with chronic illness leading to physical impairment due to him being subjected to torture whilst under the employ of the LDF.

“The said torture was inflicted during the nationally well-knownmilitary occurrences that transpired in 2015,” read the court papers.

“The injuries sustained were so brutal and inhumane, that they have left me physically impaired. To the point that I could not perform active service tasks, and duties that a normal and able-bodied soldier with his experience and knowledge can carry out.

“The Applicant has never formally recovered from these injuries, and they have left him weak, incapacitated, and physically impaired.

“The Applicant has formally sued the Respondents under proceedings pending before this honourable court, which lead the First Respondent to be dissatisfied, spiteful, and angry. He accordingly placed the Applicant on suspension for over One (1) year,” the paper read.

He told the court that after he was recalled to duty, he was deployed to active service but indicated that he was physically incapacitated to do active service work.

At some point in time, he said, he was given garden work to do.

He stated that he had since then been accused and charged for disobedience to orders directed to him by his immediate superior, which was occasioned when he was ordered to work on a “VCP”patrol operation despite being diagnosed with chronic illness.

He further divulged that upon his release from detention, he was summoned to a disciplinary hearing scheduled to take place on March 9, 2023, but was only able to obtain and access medical care and treatment after being released from detention on March 8, 2023.

“Once able to get medical attention, he was declared physically unfit by a certificate of a registered doctor and a medical report was issued to that effect, which report he tendered to the Commander of LDF acting through his subordinates.

“Dissatisfied with such a medical certificate (which is valid up to March 21, 2023) and report the First Respondent acting through his subordinates has rejected it, wants to arrest and detain the Applicant on the allegation that he committed fraud by obtaining the said certificate and report,” the application read.

It further read: “The Commander has under his watch as the Commander already initiated, licensed and/or authorised an assault, search and capture mission that has seen the Applicant go into hiding for fear of his life and that of his family members.

“The First Respondent’s subordinates have confirmed having been at the Applicant’s residential home. This home has since been broken into by forced entry and vandalized by the subordinates of the First Respondent in their aggressive search for him.”

According to the court papers, sometime in June 2015, and having been deployed in Mokhotlong, Mahase was captured by his colleagues and severely tortured for several days on account of allegations made against him by the then-military commander that he was involved in the mutiny.

He said following the severe torture, he, along with others, launched a civil action against the Military claiming compensation under civil case Number CIV/441/2021.

“I was then issued with a show cause letter over why disciplinary action should not be taken against me solely on account of having launched a civil action before this honourable court or being part thereof,” he said.

“I was then put on suspension from work because of having taken legal action against the Military. Before I was put on suspension, I was told by my then-boss that I was going to be suspended.

“The suspension was uplifted on November 11, 2022. when I returned from suspension I was verbally told by the same boss that I was a rebel in the army.

“I was part of the meeting wherein the then ruling government promised that it will compensate those that had been tortured and even urged those that had already sued it to halt their legal proceedings against the government,” Mahase said.

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