Army re­turns seized weapons

Lesotho Times - - News - Keiso Mohloboli

THE Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) this week re­turned an as­sort­ment of firearms its mem­bers seized from Po­lice Head­quar­ters on 30 Au­gust 2014, highly placed sources told the Le­sotho Times yes­ter­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the sources, the arms were re­turned after Act­ing Po­lice Com­mis­sioner (APC) Ma­supha Ma­supha told LDF au­thor­i­ties that they were needed for pre­sen­ta­tion in court as part of ev­i­dence.

Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Khothatso Tšooana told a me­dia con­fer­ence a week after the early morn­ing raid that the army con­fis­cated 44 as­sault ri­fles be­long­ing to the po­lice, “and many other weapons” which were to be used as ev­i­dence be­fore the courts of law.

“The army also took away cases of Savannah cider and Coca-Cola and four cell-phones, which were also ex­hibits to be used as part of ev­i­dence be­fore the courts.

“They took some keys to our of­fices, cars and mo­tor­bikes and fur­ther drove away in po­lice ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing the one I nor­mally use,” he added.

Com­mis­sioner Tšooana fur­ther said the sol­diers de­manded dock­ets and files per­tain­ing to some high-pro­file cases the po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing at the time.

“The dock­ets in­cluded those re­lat­ing to Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­th­etjoa Mets­ing’s cor­rup­tion cases, and oth­ers in­volv­ing some se­nior-rank­ing mem­bers of the LDF. The sol­diers man­aged to get some of the dock­ets, but not all of them,” he added.

The po­lice chief fur­ther said dur­ing the at­tack, nine po­lice of­fi­cers were badly in­jured, while one sub-in­spec­tor, Mokhe­seng Ramahloko, was shot dead at Po­lice Head­quar­ters.

How­ever, after the raid, which Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane said was an abortive at­tempt to over­throw his gov­ern­ment, the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) fa­cil­i­tated the sign­ing of the Maseru Se­cu­rity Ac­cord (MSA) on 23 Oc­to­ber, aimed at end­ing the turf war.

The Ac­cord saw LDF bosses Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, and Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli and Com­mis­sioner Tšooana be­ing sent out of the coun­try on leave of ab­sence, while their deputies, Ma­supha and Ma­jor Gen­eral Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo, took charge.

The stand-in lead­ers have since been hold­ing meet­ings which seek to find last­ing peace be­tween the two agen­cies, and are also or­gan­is­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that in­volve LMPS and LDF per­son­nel.

One of those ac­tiv­i­ties was yes­ter­day’s march from Mabote Po­lice Sta­tion to Ratjo­mose Bar­racks by LDF and LMPS mem­bers led by Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Ma­supha and Ma­jor Gen­eral Motšo­motšo.

“Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Ma­supha wrote a let­ter to Ma­jor Gen­eral Motšo­motšo on Tues- day this week, ask­ing for the re­turn of the seized weapons. The com­mu­niqué was part of the on-go­ing in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the LDF and LMPS chiefs, aimed at nor­mal­is­ing re­la­tions be­tween the two se­cu­rity agen­cies.

“Ma­supha stressed that the weapons were needed for pre­sen­ta­tion in court as part of ev­i­dence. He fur­ther iden­ti­fied the guns by their case and se­rial num­bers to make it easy for the army to iden­tify those that were needed as a mat­ter of ur­gency,” the source said.

“How­ever, not all the seized weapons were re­turned but those which were sur­ren­dered, were the ones the po­lice said they needed ur­gently.

“But be­cause of the new and cor­dial re­la­tions that now ex­ist be­tween the LDF and LMPS, we are con­fi­dent all the weapons, and ev­ery­thing else seized dur­ing the raid, would be re­turned in due course.

“There is also re­newed hope in the LMPS that with this new co­op­er­a­tion, even those mem­bers of the army wanted by the po­lice to help in our in­ves­ti­ga­tions, would be sur­ren­dered.

“Th­ese in­deed, are dif­fer­ent times in the po­lice. Let’s hope the re­la­tions con­tinue to im­prove be­cause I can see a gen­uine will to end hos­til­i­ties be­tween the po­lice and army.”

Con­tacted for com­ment last night, Po­lice Spokesper­son Le­bona Mohloboli con­firmed there are on-go­ing meet­ings be­tween the LMPS and LDF aimed at “nor­mal­is­ing “re­la­tions be­tween the two pre­vi­ously feud­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions.

How­ever, Se­nior In­spec­tor Mohloboli could nei­ther con­firmed nor de­nied that the army had re­turned some of the seized weapons, in- sist­ing: “This is a con­tro­ver­sial se­cu­rity is­sue that I will not com­ment fur­ther about. What I can only say is that Ntate Ma­supha did not is­sue any let­ter to the LDF.

“The fact of the mat­ter is he has had meet­ings with LDF au­thor­i­ties but has not writ­ten any let­ter.”

As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Ma­supha would not com­ment when con­tacted on the is­sue last night, as he re­ferred the Le­sotho Times to Se­nior In­spec­tor Mohloboli.

Mean­while, re­peated at­tempts to get a com­ment from LDF Pub­lic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer, Ma­jor Ntlele Ntoi, were fruit­less as his mo­bile phone rang unan­swered.

LDF Act­ing Com­man­der Ma­jor Gen­eral Motšo­motšo, on the other hand, re­fused to com­ment when con­tacted late last night, as he re­ferred the Le­sotho Times to Ma­jor Ntoi.

FROM left: LDF Act­ing Com­man­der Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo, LMPS Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Ma­supha Ma­supha and LDF Chief of Staff Ma­jor Gen­eral Li­neo Poopa dur­ing the ‘peace’ march from Mabote to Ratjo­mose yes­ter­day.

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