Group of soldiers accused of mutiny



MASERU –  Eleven soldiers who last week sued the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) command for their unlawful arrest and detention in 2014 have been accused of mutiny.

LDF this week wrote to the soldiers asking them to show cause why they may not be suspended while being investigated. The 11 serving soldiers teamed up with five others to launch a lawsuit in which they said they were subjected to torture and degrading treatment by fellow soldiers during their arrest and detention in 2014.

They are demanding compensation from the Defence Force and have each claimed over a million Maloti for torture, pain and loss, unlawful detention and economic loss. The incidents apparently happened during and after the attempted coup against Former Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane’s first government (2014).

Seven years later, the soldiers approached the High Court for a civil claim but LDF this week slapped them with show cause letters citing their lawsuit (civil claim). They have been asked to indicate why they cannot be suspended pending an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding their civil claim.

LDF alleges mutiny on their part and a board of inquiry has been convened to investigate the matter. Mutiny is rebellion against authorities and a very serious offence in the LDF. If convicted, offenders may face capital punishment.

In a letter to one of the suspended officers, a copy of which Public Eye has seen, LDF informs the officers that a Board of Inquiry (BOI) has been set to investigate the matter.

“Whereas there is a Board of Inquiry (BOI) that has been convened by the commander LDF to inquire into circumstances surrounding the joint action by yourself and fifteen others in Tumelo Maja V Commander LDF & Other whereby there is a claim for damages pertaining to alleged incidents of torture and unlawful arrest.”

Army authorities further state, in the letter, that when the 15 soldiers met to discuss the lawsuit without first exhausting internal redress provided by LDF laws, it served as undermining core military values of adherence to the military chain of command. “Whereas you and your fellow litigants met under what could be mutinous circumstances whereby you and other members of the Defence Force colluded to undermine the lawful Command of Lesotho Defence Force.”

LDF Commander, Lieutanant General Mojalefa Letsoela states in the letter that his concern is that “a meeting, conference or any assembly of person’s subject to LDF laws may be constructed as mutiny more so where such a combination appears to undermine the command, control and cohesion of the organisation.”

Only 11 of the 16 soldiers were asked to show cause because two of them have distanced themselves from the application.

LDF’s Public Relations Officer, Captain Sakeng Lekola told Public Eye that the two officers denied being part of the application and convinced the command that they did not participate, while the remaining three are not active members.

In their civil claims, the soldiers had alleged that following the 2014 attempted coup, some members of the LDF reportedly started arresting, detaining, assaulting and torturing individuals suspected of being loyal to a competing faction of government or military leadership. They said they were also arrested, detained and assaulted “for the sole purpose of the undesired faction of government and or military leadership,”

Some of them even had to flee to the neighbouring South Africa (SA) so as to evade torture. “In trepidation of the widespread assaults, tortures, detention and persecutions of their fellow officers and acquaintances, some of the plaintiffs herein, individually and or collectively resolved to skip the country and seek refuge in South Africa.”

They contend that leaving for SA meant that they had to endure prejudice and suffering as they were forced to leave their families, businesses and even abandon insurance policies and investments in order to flee from unlawful, wrongful and illegal acts of the officers under the employ of LDF.

Attempts to have government through the office of the Attorney General (AG) compensate them, they said, failed as they are still awaiting a response.

The 16 officers are: Tumelo Maja, Ngoliso Majara, Khoarai Ralitlemo, Mots’oene Mots’oene, Thabiso Motsieloa, Thabang Lepota, Peter Mokhothu, Selebalo Sejake, Lintle Rantuba, Lehlohonolo Bolofo, Ntai Mosaku, Lits’itso Mahase, Mokhapi Kelane, Mojalefa Mosakeng, Ntabejane Kanono and Lehloa Ramots’o.


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