‘Release detained LDF soldiers’




. . . SA High Commissioner told


MASERU – Basotho Lead Petitioners have called for the immediate release of two Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members incarcerated in Matatiele, South Africa, following their arrest in July last year.

Basotho Lead Petitioners is an all-encompassing assembly of ordinary Basotho and chiefs demanding the return of the Basotho land ceded to the Republic of South Africa during the British colonial era 1845 Bloemfontein Convention.

They have to date engaged with similar groupings in both South Africa and other regional neighbours, including the Border Determination Special Committee of the Kingdom of eSwatini, Agri Forum in South Africa, as well as representatives of Barotseland which was in 1969 forcefully occupied by the Zambian government that effected its illegal annexation and military occupation.

LDF members Privates Rorisang Moepi and Dumile Tšoeunyane were on July 19 arrested in Matatiele, in the South African province of Eastern Cape by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). They were on an operation to trail Basotho livestock apparently seized by cattle-rustlers who fled to the neighbouring republic.


The soldiers were arrested, allegedly for breach of protocol. South African officials accused them of failing to report their entry into the country and were, as a result, apprehended.


The LDF last month said while relations between the two countries and their defence forces remain cordial, it is necessary that both armies inform each other well in advance before crossing borders while on duty. Moepi and Tšoeunyane were kept in police cells and later sent to a correctional facility.

The pair was on July 22 officially charged with illegal immigration, possession of unlicensed firearms, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and contravention of the Disaster Management Act that primarily restricts movement into South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, as well as stock theft.

The charge of stock theft was later withdrawn after it was established that the animals were not stolen.

They did not immediately have legal representation and had to rely on South African legal aid lawyers.

In previous interviews the LDF told this publication that due to the hard lockdown that both South Africa and Lesotho were under, it was almost impossible to send local army lawyers to represent the two men.

It has emerged that Lesotho attempted to send lawyers and a medical doctor to assess the situation of the soldiers when they were first arrested only to be denied entry into that country.

The Basotho Lead Petitioners now argue they have learned that the South African government is not making the fate of the two soldiers a priority.

“It has come to our attention that a team of legal representatives and the doctor to assess the conditions of the two were denied access to cross the border to attend to the soldiers’ case in Matatiele,” a petition sent to the South African High Commission in Maseru this week states.


It furthers states: “We learned from the right honourable the Prime Minister’s delegation of Ministers sent to South Africa that the government of Lesotho tried their best to deliberate on this matter while the South African government did not prioritise the issue of detained soldiers.”

In another shocking revelation, the petitioners say Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s delegation was kept waiting for more than an hour despite properly following COVID-19 regulations when entering the republic.

The pair remains in detention and prosecution’s decision not to oppose bail did not convince the Matatiele Magistrate Court to grant them bail.

In fact, the magistrate denied bail on two occasions ruling that he was not bound by the prosecution’s submissions.

Not even the sworn statements by LDF and SANDF affidavits in support of the bail could convince the magistrate to decide otherwise.

The government later instructed a South African lawyer, Advocate Dumiza Ntsebeza, through the Pan African Bar Association of South Africa (PABASA), who launched a fresh bail application but was unsuccessful. Despite raising new points of law and facts, the court on December 3, 2020, dismissed the bail petition yet again. The case has been set to to be heard on March 4.

The Basotho Lead Petitioner’s representative, Mpho Serobanyane, told Public Eye in an interview that failure to engage local lawyers as well as a doctor to assess the situation of the soldiers immediately after the incident compromised the case.

He said efforts to have the delegation meet with the soldiers were frustrated by South Africa when its officials denied the delegation entry into the country. Serobanyane noted the delegation was kept waiting on the day they intended to cross only for officials to later say they would only allow two members of the delegation to enter the country.

Basotho Lead Petitioners have brought the concern to the attention of the High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sello Moloto, and reminded him of the two SANDF members and two other border officials who were arrested in Lesotho but were released after he and the Lesotho government intervened.

The two SADF and the immigration officials were arrested after crossing the Maseru border gate into the country to fuel their two private cars at Gateway Filling Station without proper authorisation.

They had no passports and permits allowing them to cross into the country.

After spending a night at the Maseru Police Headquarters, Corporals Zibuse Herringtin Mbhense (48), Muzikawulahlwa Shandu (46), Mr Mfundo Mazibuko (38) and Ms Lipuo Lebese (39) appeared before the Maseru Magistrate Court on 22 August 2020 and were charged with contravening Section 30 (b) of the Public Health (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 and Section 33 of the Aliens Control Act No 16 of 1966.

They are currently out on M1 000 bail each while LDF officers are still detained.


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