De­tained sol­diers so in trou­ble tr over kids ki protest

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Billy Ntaote

SIX­TEEN sol­diers de­tained in Maseru Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity Prison for sus­pected mutiny were al­legedly de­nied food on Sun­day and Mon­day morn­ing as pun­ish­ment for a ‘fun-walk’ their chil­dren have or­gan­ised to com­mem­o­rate Fa­ther’s Day.

Ac­cord­ing to the sol­diers’ lawyer and chil­dren and who spoke to the Le­sotho Times on con­di­tion of anonymity for fear of vic­tim­i­sa­tion, the de­tainees have been threat­ened with more pun­ish­ment if the Fa­ther’s Day com­mem­o­ra­tion set for 19 June in Maseru, is not called off.

The de­tainees were al­legedly first ver­bally abused by their guards and then told they would suf­fer be­cause of their chil­dren’s “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated” fun-walk be­fore they were de­nied the food.

The Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) has, how­ever, re­jected the claims while act­ing De­fence and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Likeli Tam­pane ac­cused op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties of be­ing be­hind the “false” al­le­ga­tions to tar­nish gov­ern­ment’s im­age.

How­ever, the Le­sotho Times was told five of the sol­diers were placed in soli­tary con­fine­ment on Sun­day af­ter the food fi­asco and de­fy­ing or­ders is­sued by one of their guards, ar­gu­ing he was “too junior” to give them any in­struc­tions.

The guard, a Cor­po­ral, had al­legedly told the de­tainees to stand in a queue so he could see if they were all present, only to be told off by those who out­rank him.

It was this ar­gu­ment, the Le­sotho Times fur­ther heard, which landed Bri­gadier Mo­toa, Colonel Ste­mere, Colonel Kolisang, Ma­jor Makhetha and Cap­tain Chaka, in soli­tary con­fine­ment.

The de­ten­tion, the Le­sotho Times was fur­ther told, came af­ter a Lieu­tenant-colonel had al­legedly told the sol­diers their ranks counted for noth­ing as they were now pris­on­ers.

On Mon­day, the de­tainees were also al­legedly ad­dressed by a Sec­ond-lieu­tenant who told them as a re­sult of their chil­dren’s “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated walk”, their med­i­ca­tion would be with­drawn.

One of the lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the sol­diers, At­tor­ney Tu­misang Mosotho, yes­ter­day said he had been in­formed of the “pun­ish­ment” but was yet to per­son­ally ver­ify the al­le­ga­tions.

An­other lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the ac­cused who re­fused to be iden­ti­fied, con­firmed the de­tainees had been de­nied food and also said the five of­fi­cers were now in soli­tary con­fine­ment for their defiance.

But a daugh­ter of one of the de­tained sol­diers yes­ter­day told the Le­sotho Times the ‘fun walk’ would con­tinue de­spite their fa­thers’ “ha- rass­ment”.

The 22-year-old also said the event had been or­gan­ised by the fam­i­lies of the 23 sol­diers who have been ac­cused of plot­ting to over­throw the LDF com­mand. The fam­ily of slain for­mer LDF com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao is also part of the Fa­ther’s Day walk, she added.

Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Ma­hao was fa­tally shot by LDF mem­bers on 25 June 2015, al­legedly while re­sist­ing ar­rest for be­ing the brains be­hind the sus­pected mutiny.

The de­fi­ant daugh­ter told the Le­sotho Times: “We have de­cided to come out and break the si­lence by hold­ing the walk to com­fort each other on Fa­ther’s Day. We want to com­mem­o­rate this day together as chil­dren of fa­thers who are fac­ing sim­i­lar hard­ships.

“But our fa­thers have told us that our de­ci­sion to hold the fun-walk has an­gered cer­tain peo­ple and they are now ill-treat­ing them in de­ten­tion.

“Our fa­thers in­formed us they had been de­nied food and placed un- der soli­tary con­fine­ment and they would not see the sun due to our ac­tions.

“They also in­formed us they were threat­ened that some of us would not re­turn from the Fa­ther’s Day com­mem­o­ra­tion if we go ahead with it.

“But we will not be in­tim­i­dated; we will go ahead with the walk be­cause we be­lieve we have the right to cel­e­brate this day the way we want.”

An­other daugh­ter of the de­tained sol­diers told the Le­sotho Times the walk is meant to bring the an­guished chil­dren together so they could re­mem­ber their fa­thers as one big fam­ily.

The 20-year-old, who also re­fused to be named, said the emo­tional tor­ture the fam­i­lies of the de­tained sol­diers have gone through since the ar­rests which took place be­tween May and June 2015, had be­come un­bear­able.

She de­nied the walk was politi

We have de­cided to come out and break the si­lence by hold­ing the walk to com­fort each other on Fa­ther’s Day.

Con­tin­ues on Page 7 . . .

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