Hit list ‘tar­gets’ speak out

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

HIGH-PRO­FILE per­son­al­i­ties on a “hit list” cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia net­works say they now fear for their lives.

Top on the list, which has gone vi­ral on What­sapp and Face­book, are the five lawyers rep­re­sent­ing 22 sol­diers de­tained at the Maseru Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity Pri­son. The lawyers are King’s Coun­sel Haae Phoofolo, Christo­pher Le­phuthing and Koili Nde­bele as well as At­tor­neys Khotso Nthon­tho and Tu­misang Mosotho.

The list also in­cludes Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho (NUL) vice-chan­cel­lor Pro­fes­sor Nqosa Ma­hao, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) deputy leader Joang Mo­lapo and party spokesper­son Mach­esetsa Mo­fo­mobe. Former Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS) com­mis­sioner Khothatso Tšooana is also on the list, as well as LMPS Deputy Com­mis­sioner Holomo Moli­beli, Maseru busi­ness­man Elias Mot­lomelo and ra­dio pre­sen­ter Puse­letso Ramokhethi.

In an in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times yes­ter­day, Ad­vo­cate Phoofolo said he saw the list and im­me­di­ately re­ported the mat­ter to the po­lice.

“In light of what hap­pened af­ter the pre­vi­ous hit list was cir­cu­lated also on so­cial me­dia, I am tak­ing this very se­ri­ously, which is why I went to the ex­tent of re­port­ing the mat­ter to the po­lice,” he said.

“If you re­mem­ber, some­time in March and April this year, the is­sue of hit lists was also trend­ing on Face­book. In May this year, prom­i­nent busi­ness­man Thabiso Tšosane, who was on the list, was killed. A month later, former Le­sotho Defence Force (LDF) com­man­der, Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, was also killed, so I can­not ig­nore such an omi­nous mes­sage.”

Asked if he knew who was be­hind the list, Ad­vo­cate Phoofolo said: “I re­ally don’t know its ori­gin or whether it is au­then­tic or fake. How­ever, I have to ad­mit that the list has made me more cau­tious about my move­ments and con­cerned about my safety.

“I have been un­easy since the day I heard about it. In my opin­ion, this threat could not have em­anated from the po­lice or the army but hired as­sas­sins. This is be­cause I have seen a num­ber of pri­vate ve­hi­cles with­out reg­is­tra­tion plates mak­ing sus­pi­cious move­ments near my res­i­dence in the evenings.”

How­ever, the former Jus­tice, Law and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs min­is­ter said he was still puz­zled by his in­clu­sion on the list since he did not have “any ar­gu­ments and dis­agree­ments with any­body”.

“I can only spec­u­late that it might be be­cause I rep­re­sent de­tained army of­fi­cers ac­cused of mutiny and the fam­ily of Lt-gen Ma­hao or be­cause I con­fronted the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry chairperson (Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi) af­ter my clients were un­able to ap­pear be­fore the com­mis­sion to tes­tify over the al­leged mutiny plot they are charged with,” opined Ad­vo­cate Phoofolo.

“The threat can­not be ig­nored, but it must be clear to ev­ery­one that we are just do­ing our job as lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the de­tained sol­diers. We will con­tinue to do our best, with or with­out the threats. We can’t stop work­ing be­cause of vic­tim­i­sa­tion.”

Ad­vo­cate Nde­bele also con­firmed see­ing the list yes­ter­day, adding he was very con­cerned now about his safety.

“I can’t take any hit list lightly, whether it is true or not be­cause its au­then­tic­ity might be proved when some­one is dead,” he said.

“My move­ments are now lim­ited be­cause I have to be care­ful about ev­ery­body who is around me. I have not yet re­ported the mat­ter to the po­lice, but if I see any­thing sus­pi­cious move­ments near me, I will def­i­nitely act on it.”

Ad­vo­cate Nde­bele said he was re­cently con­cerned af­ter a “sus­pi­cious-look­ing” man came to his Maseru home look­ing for work to land­scape the gar­den.

“I was not com­fort­able with the ap­pear­ance of the man be­cause he was wear­ing new boots usu­ally worn by sol­diers and was very clean even though he was wear­ing worn-out clothes,” he said.

“I was not sure if he was gen­uinely look­ing for a job or if he wanted to spy on me so I could not give him the job.”

Ad­vo­cate Le­phuthing also con­firmed see­ing the hit list, which he said had left him “de­pressed”.

“I don’t have much to say about the hit list de­spite the fact that I saw my name and those of my col­leagues on it. I have not re­ported the mat­ter to the po­lice but only alert- ed my col­leagues about it,” he said.

“We have not dis­cussed the mat­ter and are yet to de­ter­mine the mean­ing of the list to our lives. Ev­ery time the is­sue of a hit list arises, I get so de­pressed be­cause I don’t even know where it comes from.”

On his part, Ad­vo­cate Nthon­tho told the Le- sotho Times he would soon re­port the mat­ter to the po­lice adding: “There is noth­ing much I can tell you about the hit list. I am just care­ful about my move­ments and every­thing that hap­pens around me.”

Prof Ma­hao was equally brief when con­tacted by the Le­sotho Times.

“I am aware of the hit list and the fact that my name is ap­pear­ing on it. But I am not giv­ing in­ter­views on that is­sue. How­ever, I am tak­ing the mat­ter very se­ri­ously.”

Mr Mot­lomelo, who was early this month awarded M450 000 as com­pen­sa­tion for tor­ture at the hands of the army in 2007, said he was tak­ing the hit list se­ri­ously be­cause he came to know about it through the po­lice.

“I was in Bloem­fontein, South Africa, last week­end when I re­ceived sev­eral phone calls from mem­bers of the po­lice’s Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Unit telling me that my name was on a hit list. I can’t say the names of the po­lice of­fi­cers who alerted me to pro­tect their iden­ti­ties, but I was not sur­prised since this is not the first time my name has ap­peared on such a death list,” he said.

“I don’t want to get into the de­tails of pre­vi­ous hit lists, but my in­for­mants tell me some peo­ple were not happy that I was granted that M450 000 for the tor­ture I was sub­jected to in 2007.”

Mr Mo­fo­mobe said he was also con­cerned about fea­tur­ing on the list, adding he could not bank on the po­lice to pro­tect him.

“I am con­cerned about my safety be­cause we have seen peo­ple on pre­vi­ous hit lists be­ing killed. I have since up­dated my funeral scheme and in­sur­ance sub­scrip­tions,” he said.

“Even if they can suc­ceed in killing me, at least Ba­sotho would be aware that the coali­tion gov­ern­ment pro­tects th­ese peo­ple and does not stand for jus­tice and peace.”

On whether he would re­port the is­sue to the po­lice, Mr Mo­fo­mobe said: “A lot of peo­ple have been mur­dered and the po­lice have failed to ar­rest the sus­pects. It is point­less to re­port th­ese threats to the po­lice when we al­ready know that noth­ing will be done to pro­tect our lives.”

Chief Mo­lapo echoed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments, say­ing he had not both­ered to re­port the is­sue to the po­lice be­cause “it is not nec­es­sary”.

“I am aware that I am the last per­son on the list and am tak­ing it se­ri­ously, to some ex­tent. I have not re­ported the is­sue to the po­lice be­cause if the owner of that list is se­ri­ous about killing me, he will still do so re­gard­less,” he said.

“I think the owner of the hit list thinks I will run away and claim that there are threats to my life. I am not scared and will not run away be­cause th­ese are just the tac­tics of sense­less peo­ple.”

Also con­tacted for com­ment last night, po­lice spokesper­son, Se­nior In­spec­tor Clif­ford Molefe said he was un­aware of the hit list since the mat­ter had not been re­ported to his of­fice.

“I am not say­ing that the hit list does not ex­ist, but that the po­lice’s Pub­lic Re­la­tions depart­ment is yet to re­ceive such in­for­ma­tion if it has been re­ported. At this mo­ment, I have not seen such a re­port and I prom­ise to make a fol­low-up,” Snr Insp Molefe said.

Ef­forts to get in touch with Mr Tšooana, Ms Ramokhethi, DCP Moli­beli and Ad­vo­cate Mosotho were fruit­less yes­ter­day.

Ad­vo­cate Haae Phoofolo Kc

BNP deputy leader Joang Mo­lapo

ad­vo­cate haae Phoofolo (kc).

Pro­fes­sor nqosa Ma­hao

at­tor­ney khotso nthon­tho

ad­vo­cate koili nde­bele

BNP spokesper­son Mach­esetsa Mo­fo­mobe

the ‘hit list’ cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia.

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