MASERU — An accountant in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport paid an accomplice M6 000 to start the fire that gutted down two offices at the traffic department last December, the Maseru magistrate’s court heard this week.
The allegations were made by the accomplice who has turned state witness during Tuesday’s hearing.
Seoehla Maama was testifying against Moleboheng ’Neko, an accountant at the traffic department, Rethabile Thamae, 26, a taxi driver, and Palesa Thulo, 35, who works at Masutsa Catering.
The three are facing trial for arson and pleaded not guilty before magistrate Senekale Qobolo.
Maama, who is a messenger at the Legal Aid Department in the Ministry of Justice, is not being charged because he has cut a deal with the prosecution to become a state witness.
The prosecution alleges that on December 11, 2010, the trio “acting in common purpose set fire on the traffic commissioner’s office”.
Led in his evidence by Prosecutor Gcinimuzi Tshabalala, Maama told the court that ‘Neko had approached him saying that she had made ‘mistakes’ and wanted someone to do some work for her.
Maama said he told ‘Neko that he could not do the job but could help hire someone to do it.
The witness sometime later met Rethabile Thamae, who drives a taxi.
“I told him that I wanted to give him work to burn offices at the traffic department and would give him all the details,” Maama said.
After the two reached an agreement, he added, they phoned ‘Neko and told her that he had found a person for the job.
Maama and Thamae agreed that they would go to the traffic department as ’Neko had already pointed the spot to burn.
Maama told the court that on Friday that week around 11pm Thamae phoned asking where they could meet.
“We met at a garage in Khubetsoana.
“I parked near the road while Thamae went to buy petrol,” he said.
“We then drove to the traffic commissioner’s offices to check whether the work could be done,” Maama said.
On arrival between 1.30 and 2am, they found that some employees of a cleaning company, Lefielo, were working near the traffic offices.
They then turned back and headed for Lakeside Hotel in a 4+1 taxi driven by Thamae, the court heard.
Maama said they later returned to the traffic commissioner’s offices and parked near the Excel garage.
The two then took out a drum of petrol and walked towards the office.
“I then showed Thamae two rooms with windows facing the road. He then climbed (on top of) what seemed to be an iron steel and I handed him the container of petrol,” Maama stated, adding that less than five minutes later he saw Thamae jumping over the fence and coming to the cab.
Maama said he asked Thamae whether the office was burning and he confirmed so.
On their way back to Khubetsoana, the court heard, Maama phoned ‘Neko and told her that they had accomplished the mission and were on their way back.
‘Neko told them that she was at the home of Thulo and directed them to come there.
“She said she wanted to see whether we had really done the job,” he said.
According to Maama, the four of them (‘Neko, Thamae, Thulo, and him) then procceed to the traffic offices.
He said upon noticing that there were no flames, ‘Neko then told Thamae that they should go and get more petrol, leaving the two women at Thulo’s house.
“Thamae went to the garage and bought petrol and then we returned to the offices where he (Thamae) climbed and I gave him the petrol container,” Maama said.
After less than five minutes he came running and the two then returned to Khubetsoana via the Sea Point road.
“This time flames were up. There was light,” Maama told the court.
They then drove back to Thulo’s house.
Maama said the four drove back to the traffic commissioner’s office after ‘Neko insisted again to see whether the job had been done.
He said that when they had gone past the Central Bank of Lesotho, a few blocks away from the traffic department offices, they saw flames.
“She (Neko) was satisfied and we returned to Thulo’s house.”
“While we were inside ‘Neko went to her car which was parked outside and brought M6 000 which she gave me,” Maama said, adding that he then called Thamae who had remained outside.
Added Maama: “I gave him M2 000 and took M4 000 because the job belonged to me and I was the one who recruited him.“Besides he is a young man and he did not have financial problems as much as me.”
The case has been postponed to June 10.