Re­tired colonel in hot soup

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

PO­LICE this week ar­rested and grilled Re­tired Lieu­tenant Colonel, Thato Phaila, over his pos­si­ble in­volve­ment in a se­ries of crimes that were com­mit­ted by mem­bers of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) in­clud­ing the 2015 and 2017 as­sas­si­na­tions of army com­man­ders, Maa­parankoe Ma­hao and Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo.

The crimes were com­mit­ted be­fore Lt-col Phaila’s re­tire­ment in De­cem­ber 2016.

Rtd Lt-col Phaila was sum­moned to the po­lice head­quar­ters on Mon­day and he re­mains in cus­tody as po­lice con­tinue with their in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Po­lice Spokesper­son, Su­per­in­ten­dent Mpiti Mopeli yes­ter­day con­firmed a team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors quizzed the re­tired se­nior army of­fi­cer; but would not be drawn into di­vulging the full de­tails of the is­sues that led to his de­ten­tion.

“Lt-colonel Phaila re­mains in po­lice cus­tody, help­ing the po­lice with their in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” Supt Mopeli said.

“It is pre­ma­ture for me to give full de­tails of the cases he is as­sist­ing the po­lice with save to say that we be­lieve that he will shed more light into some of the crimes per­pe­trated within the LDF be­fore his re­tire­ment.”

How­ever, well-placed sources told the Le­sotho Times that Lt-col Phaila was as­sist­ing po­lice in their in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the as­sas­sina- tions of Lt-gen Ma­hao and Lt-gen Motšo­motšo.

He was also quizzed on the mur­ders of Po­lice Sub In­spec­tor Mokhe­seng Ramahloko and the three men whose re­mains were re­trieved from Mo­hale Dam in De­cem­ber last year.

A source privy to the in­ves­ti­ga­tions said Lt-col Phaila had a “wealth of in­for­ma­tion that could help the po­lice to un­der­stand cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the crimes per­pe­trated by some LDF sol­diers, in par­tic­u­lar the mur­der of the two army com­man­ders, Sub In­spec­tor Ramahloko and the three men whose bod­ies were thrown in Mo­hale Dam”.

Lt-gen Ma­hao was am­bushed and shot by his peers near his farm in Mokema on 25 June 2015.

The LDF claimed that Lt-gen Ma­hao had been shot while re­sist­ing ar­rest over an al­leged mutiny plot.

How­ever, the army’s ver­sion was dis­missed by both the sol­dier’s fam­ily and the SADC com­mis­sion of in­quiry headed by re­tired judge Mphaphi Phumaphi.

Lt-gen Ma­hao’s fam­ily ac­cused the army of killing him in cold blood, bas­ing on the ac­count of his neph­ews who were with him dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

Jus­tice Phumaphi’s 10-mem­ber com­mis­sion car­ried out its inves- tiga­tions be­tween 31 Au­gust and 23 Oc­to­ber 2015 and rec­om­mended, among other things, that the gov­ern­ment should in­ves­ti­gate the killing of Lt-gen Ma­hao and pros­e­cute those found to be re­spon­si­ble. So far, eight sol­diers have ap­peared in court charged with his mur­der.

Sub-in­spec­tor Ramahloko was killed on 30 Au­gust, 2014 dur­ing an at­tempted coup against the first gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane. Four sol­diers have since been ar­rested over his mur­der.

Lt-gen Motšo­motšo was shot dead on 5 Septem­ber 2017 in Ratjo­mose Bar­racks of­fice by his sub­or­di­nates, Bri­gadier Bu­lane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi. The two were sub­se­quently shot dead by Lt-gen Motšo­motšo’s body guards.

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