TEBOHO KHATEBE MOLEFI
MASERU – Cabinet has ordered the immediate release of the two detained South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members, as well as the other two government officials they are incarcerated with, Public Eye can reveal. The quartet was arrested in Maseru on August 20, after crossing into Lesotho without proper documents.
Following the arrest police said the South Africans were arrested for breaching Lesotho’s Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations of 2020 in travelling into the country without proper documentation. Initial investigations suggest that the accused were going to refill their car at a filling station in Maseru, police said; the suspects have since appeared in court and their case continues while they remain in custody.
The paper has learned that a heated cabinet meeting ensued Monday morning, with Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro moving for the release of the South African nationals, with some ministers backing the idea because of “fear of a military attack from the South African Army.” Police spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli told this paper he was not aware of these developments.
On July 19 two members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) were also arrested in Matatiele, South Africa, the duo was apprehended by South African soldiers while pursuing cattle-rustlers who stole livestock from Lesotho and fled into South Africa. The soldiers are facing charges of illegal possession of firearms, illegal crossing into country and illegal possession of ammunition, stock theft and armed robbery. Their matter in court continues.
In an August 22 statement in Maseru, the Lesotho government announced it had directed the Minister of Defence to engage urgently with his South African counterpart to facilitate the release of the Lesotho soldiers. “Government is concerned about the health and welfare of these LDF officers and will work towards resolving this issue without any further delay. Government is confident that due to the excellent relations that exist between the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho, an amicable solution to the issue at hand will be mutually arrived at by the authorities of the two countries,” the statement read.
A Lesotho delegation of Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Machesetsa Mofomobe, is expected to leave Maseru this evening as emissaries to South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to also discuss the fate of two Lesotho soldiers, Public Eye has also learned.