Army dis­putes M70 000 law­suit

Lesotho Times - - News - Keiso Mohloboli Brian Chi­wanza

A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Ma­hao fam­ily in the on-go­ing SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry on Tues­day ac­cused two Makoanyane Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal staff of ly­ing that lieu­tenant-gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao was alive when he was brought to the med­i­cal fa­cil­ity.

The hos­pi­tal’s Di­rec­tor-med­i­cal Ser­vices, Colonel ‘Ma­tumelo ramo­qopo and nurse, Pri­vate Kamo­h­elo Sechele, told the com­mis­sion prob­ing the army’s fa­tal shoot­ing of the ex-mil­i­tary chief on 25 June this year that he died at the hos­pi­tal.

How­ever, Ad­vo­cate Haee Phoofolo (KC) told the com­mis­sion that the tes­ti­monies were “lies and hard to be­lieve”, adding there is ev­i­dence to sug­gest he was al­ready dead when he was taken to Makoanyane Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal.

Pri­vate Sechele told the com­mis­sion he was sum­moned to the am­bu­lance park­ing bay by Colonel ramo­qopo at around 3:30 pm to re­ceive lt-gen Ma­hao who had been shot out­side his Mokema farm by sol­diers sent to ar­rest him for al­leged mutiny.

“It was around 3:30pm, and I was in the ma­ter­nity ward nurses’ sta­tion. I was with a col­league who is a civil­ian. I saw the Di­rec­tor-med­i­cal Ser­vices (DMS) com­ing to­wards the ward, and when she saw me, she shouted that I should col­lect a sheet and fol­low her to the am­bu­lance park­ing bay.

“I did as I was told and upon my ar­rival at the bay, I saw the DMS stand­ing near an am­bu­lance sup­port­ing some­one I could not im­me­di­ately iden­tify. As I went closer, I re­alised that the per­son was bleed­ing. I im­me­di­ately took a trol­ley to Col ramo­qopo. It was then that I re­alised the man was Bri­gadier Ma­hao, and he was say­ing ‘good peo­ple, help me’ in a very weak voice,” Pri­vate Sechele said.

“Bri­gadier Ma­hao sat on the trol­ley, while the DMS sup­ported the left side of his up­per body. I lifted his legs and as­sisted him to put them on the trol­ley while the DMS helped him to lie down. I pulled the trol­ley, while the DMS pushed it to the treat­ment room where we started to stop the bleed­ing.”

Pri­vate Sce­hele fur­ther said by now, other med­i­cal staff had joined them in the treat­ment room.

“No­body spoke as we were all con­cen­trat­ing on stop­ping the bleed­ing and sav­ing a life. I used a pair of scis­sors to cut off his clothes to ex­pose the wounds where the blood was com­ing from. I re­alised his right arm was badly in­jured and it could not even hold any­thing; there were two wounds on the chest and another at the back. The doc­tors had not ar­rived and he be­came rest­less; he wanted to sit but we made him lie down again. At that mo­ment, the oxy­gen-mask fell as he strug­gled to sit but the per­son who was giv­ing him the air put it back on his face,” Pri­vate Sechele said.

The first doc­tor, he added, ar­rived af­ter about 10 min­utes, and another five min­utes later.

“The doc­tors tried all they could to stop the bleed­ing and re­sus­ci­tate him un­til they pro­nounced him dead. I cleaned the corpse with a wet towel, re­moved dried blood and changed the dress­ing. I couldn’t leave the body like that,” Pri­vate Sechele said.

Colonel ramo­qopo nar­rated an al­most sim­i­lar state­ment, but dif­fered on how ltGen Ma­hao was brought to the hos­pi­tal.

“I was still at my of­fice when Chief of Staff Ma­jor Gen­eral Poopa called and asked if I was still at work. He asked whether there was a pa­tient who had ar­rived at the hos­pi­tal. Fol­low­ing that call, I thought maybe I had not re­sponded prop­erly, and de­cided to go to the hos­pi­tal to con­firm.

“while on my way, he called me again and said I must be ready to re­ceive an ur­gent pa­tient and make sure I se­cure a doc­tor. when I reached the hos­pi­tal en­trance, there was no one other per­son apart from the re­cep­tion­ist. I then en­tered an of­fice usu­ally oc­cu­pied THE le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) says ra­makoae Khakha should have fol­lowed mil­i­tary pro­cesses be­fore in­sti­tut­ing his M70 000 law­suit in the High Court.

LDF mem­ber Khakha from litha­ba­neng is su­ing his em­ployer be­cause of the as­sault and tor­ture he al­legedly suf­fered at the hands of his se­nior three years ago.

He claims the abuse took place dur­ing a pa­rade at Makoanyane Bar­racks and is de­mand­ing M50 000 for pain and suf­fer­ing, M15 000 for loss of ameni­ties and M5000 for by MMH of­fi­cers. I found one of­fi­cer on the phone and he im­me­di­ately ter­mi­nated the call.

“I asked if they had just ad­mit­ted a pa­tient and he said. I asked which doc­tor was around, and he said Dr Mo­gesh. How­ever, he also said the doc­tor had just left. I called Dr Mo­gesh and asked him to re­turn to the hos­pi­tal. I told him he had to be on standby for an emer­gency,” Colonel ramo­qopo said.

“I then in­structed the of­fi­cer I had found in the of­fice near the re­cep­tion to go to the treat­ment room and pre­pare it. I also told him to mo­bilise of­fi­cers in that room to get ready for the emer­gency pa­tient who was go­ing to ar­rive soon.

“A soldier in uni­form then knocked and told me he had brought the pa­tient. I asked him where the pa­tient was and he said at the park­ing bay. Be­fore fol­low­ing the soldier to the park­ing bay, I re­mem­bered that all the trol­leys out­side were not cov­ered so I rushed to the ma­ter­nity ward for a sheet be­cause it was the clos­est to where I was.

“when I reached the ma­ter­nity ward, I saw Pri­vate Sechele and I called him to come with me,” she said.

Colonel ramo­qopo said at the park­ing bay, she saw two peo­ple—one in mil­i­tary gear and the other civil­ian cloth­ing.

“As I was look­ing at them, I re­alised that the fig­ure in pri­vate cloth­ing was stag­ger­ing as he walked. when I looked closely, I de­cid- med­i­cal ex­penses.

The case, first heard on 7 Au­gust 2013, was sup­posed to be heard by Jus­tice Tham­sanq Nom­ng­congo on Mon­day but the judge post­poned the mat­ter in­def­i­nitely be­cause both coun­sel were not ready to pro­ceed with the mat­ter.

Sec­ond lieu­tenant Tau, the LDF and At­tor­ney Gen­eral are cited as first to third re­spon­dents re­spec­tively.

Khakha sub­mit­ted in his pa­pers he could not at­tend a pa­rade on 10 Jan­uary 2012 be­cause he was not feel­ing well. He fur­ther claims the fol­low­ing day, he was on light ed that maybe he was the pa­tient I had been wait­ing for and that he was Bri­gadier Ma­hao. I also re­alised that the soldier in uni­form was sup­port­ing Bri­gadier Ma­hao be­cause he was weak even though he was still walk­ing.

“I then in­structed Pri­vate Sechele to pull the trol­ley to­wards the pa­tient. Be­fore we could even put him onto the trol­ley, he ut­tered: ‘good peo­ple help me’. I then as­sured him that we were there to help him,” Colonel ramo­qopo said.

She also told the com­mis­sion how they took the in­jured man to the treat­ment room, and tried to stop the bleed­ing. Colonel ramo­qopo added when the doc­tor ar­rived, lt Gen Ma­hao was no longer talk­ing and find­ing it dif­fi­cult to breathe.

At around 4:15pm, Colonel ramo­qopo said lt-gen Ma­hao was dead.

“Since I had been told by the Chief of Staff to re­ceive the pa­tient, I im­me­di­ately called him and told him what had hap­pened. I dis­cussed with him how we would en­sure the corpse was with the po­lice be­cause it was a po­lice case now.

“The Chief of Staff promised that he was go­ing to make sure the po­lice were no­ti­fied. The po­lice came the fol­low­ing day, 26 June 2015, to col­lect the body.”

Asked by the com­mis­sion’s chair­per­son, Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi, why she de­cided it was now a po­lice case, Col ramo­qopo said: “The na­ture of the wounds re­vealed to me duty due to the med­i­ca­tion he was now tak­ing when Sec­ond lieu­tenant Tau asked why he had not at­tended pa­rade the pre­vi­ous day.

“I was or­dered to roll on the ground as a form of pun­ish­ment and I com­plied. In the process of rolling, I was be­ing kicked all over the body. The as­sault con­tin­ued de­spite my plea for it to stop.

“I then be­gan bleed­ing from the nose and the as­sault stopped for a while,” Khakha notes in his court doc­u­ments, adding how­ever, the al­leged abuse later con­tin­ued when he was or­dered to run around the soc­cer pitch.

How­ever, the LDF is ar­gu­ing Khakha did not fol­low due process when he de­cided to sue his em­ployer, and also says Sec­ond lieu­tenant Tau was not at Makoanyane Bar­racks on the day of the al­leged tor­ture.

“The mat­ter was brought be­fore this court pre­ma­turely,” the LDF notes in its court pa­pers. “The plain­tiff should have re­ferred the mat­ter to se­nior of­fi­cers for re­dress and only ap­proach this court in the event of fail­ure of an ad­min­is­tra­tive so­lu­tion to the dis­pute.”

On the al­leged tor­ture, the LDF notes: “On the 10th of Jan­uary 2012, the first de­fen­dant (Sec­ond lieu­tenant Tau) was on pa­trol at Oxbow Mil­i­tary Base which started in Novem­ber 2011 and ended on 25 Fe­bru­ary 2012. Sec­ond lieu­tenant Tau never met Khakha on the said date.”

Khakha is be­ing rep­re­sented by Ad­vo­cate Pitso Nt­sene, while Ms loekaoke Mahlape ap­pears for the Crown.

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