BUTHA-BUTHE — A 28-year-old Butha-Buthe man died while another sustained serious injuries after they were brutally tortured by the police on December 28 last year.
The men were arrested for allegedly robbing a woman who had asked for their help to carry her luggage at a local bus station.
But while on their way to the woman’s house they were ambushed by a gunman who seized the woman’s belongings and cash.
The Lesotho Times yesterday spoke to the survivor, 40, who requested that his name be withheld, over his ordeal.
The man said instead of the police investigating the matter and interviewing them, took them to a nearby gorge and battered them with an iron rod and a stick.
They hit them on their buttocks while others kicked their chests.
He said the deceased, pleaded with the police not to kick him on the chest because he was sick.
But they ignored his pleas.
“The deceased asked them not to kick him on the chest as he was on medication but they said he was not using the medication for their own benefit,” he said.
“They were asking me to give them the name of the person who robbed the woman while at the same time asking the deceased to give them the firearms.”
He said the police ordered them to stand up as they were lying down during the torture and when they were unable to stand up they kicked them again.
Finally, the deceased said he was thirsty and the police took a woollen hat, soaked it in a pond of dirty water and twisted it on his forehead so that he could drink dirty water running down his face.
The police carried them to the van and sped off but on their way to back to the police station the deceased lost consciousness.
He said the police left him at the police station while they took the other man to hospital where he was declared dead.
“The police came back to take me to hospital. When I arrived there a nurse told me that the man I was with had died,” he said.
“During the torture we were screaming asking them to show us mercy. I did not know the person who robbed the woman and the deceased seemed to know nothing about the guns they wanted.”
When the Lesotho Times arrived at the victim’s home on yesterday, he looked sickly and in pain.
He walked with difficulty.
When he talked, he completed his sentences with difficulty — repeatedly saying he was tired.
He stripped naked to show us the scars on his buttocks and the colour of his skin on and around the buttocks had blackened.
The victim denies that he robbed the woman, a local who stays in South Africa.
He said the woman was waiting at a local bus station when he passed and she asked if he had not seen her children who were supposed to meet her.
Her cell phone did not have network, she told him.
The victim said he decided to help her carry the luggage and they walked to the village together, him leading the way and the woman following closely behind.
While they were on the way he heard the woman screaming and turned only to see that she had fallen down.
Besides her was a man pointing a gun.
“This man ordered me to stay where I was or he would shoot me. However, I moved towards him and he fired in the air. The man had already taken the handbags from the woman. When he was a few meters away from us we then screamed for help but he disappeared into the fields and we could not see where he went.”
He said they did not report the matter to the police immediately because the woman’s leg had been injured when she fell during the attack and she walked with difficulty.
On the following day, on December 24, the man who had assisted them with the van the previous night came to his home accompanied by the police saying they had come to fetch him.
That was when he was arrested.
The deceased’s mother said she last saw her son when he was handcuffed and put on the van at the police station.
She did not know that her son was going to be tortured to death.
“They were hand-cuffed and I went there to ask but the CID officer said they would get back to me later,” she said.
“When the officer did not come back with my son I decided to go to the police station to ask.
“I was hoping they were going to release my son,” she said.
“I was later told that my son died during an interrogation as he had been complaining that he was exhausted and he was declared dead in hospital.”
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha confirmed that a man died during police interrogation while another one was admitted in hospital.
“The police charter says police will arrest crime suspects and take them to court not that police will torture and kill them,” Masupha said.
“We have a team of inspectors from other police stations to investigate this case.”