MASERU — A former senior army officer is suing army commander Lt Gen Thuso Motanyane for M4.2 million for unfair dismissal from the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) in 1998.
Second Lieutenant Tšolo Makhele said even after the High Court ruled in 2003 that he should be given back his job, army bosses still refused to reinstate him.
Makhele is now demanding M4 229 000 from the army in damages.
The High Court in 2003 ruled that the court martial judgment against Makhele delivered in 1998, which was used by the LDF as the basis for his dismissal, should be set aside.
The High Court also declared the government gazette of 1998, which announced Makhele’s dismissal, null and void.
Makhele was hauled before the court martial in 1997 for allegedly failing to obey lawful orders from his superiors in the army.
He was the then head of the paratroopers unit.
Makhele told the High Court yesterday that there was bad blood between his unit and other departments after his unit won a fight between soldiers from Makoanyane and Ratjomose barracks during disturbances in 1994.
“Some of the senior officers ordered me to put off a maroon beret because they hated it.
“It is because they felt humiliated whenever they saw a maroon beret after we overcame them during our fight which was triggered by party politics.
“They did not want to see the maroon berets at all,” Makhele said.
He told the court that he refused to put off the beret because it was part of the uniform for paratroopers.
He said the disciplinary charge he faced before the court martial related to his refusal to put off the paratroopers beret.
Makhele said his dismissal followed what he alleged was a flawed court martial process.
He also told the High Court that some senior army officials wanted him dismissed after he refused to take part in a mutiny and the assassination of senior government officials in 1998.
He said he became aware of the plot to assassinate top government officials that included Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his then deputy Kelebone Maope when he was called to join the plot.
“I was called to the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) Cathedral at Our Lady of Victory Mission near the main traffic circle in Maseru by Reverend Thabo Monyau.
“Monyau told me that there was a plot to assassinate top government officials who included the prime minister, his deputy, the then army commander Makhula Mosakeng and other army officers.
“He told me that one Colonel Lesitsi had asked him to recruit me because they were afraid that I might stop their plan.
“Reverend Monyau told me that the assassination of such people would be considered as ‘a lesser evil’.
“I told him that I could not be part of that plot because Lesitsi had tried several times to get me killed.
“I also told Reverend Monyau that I would not stand in their way in their mission, so they should leave me alone,” Makhele said.
Rev Monyau was in 2003 sentenced to 10 years in prison for sedition in connection with the 1998 political unrest.
Makhele told the High Court that he was dismissed from the army because some officers hated him for refusing to be roped into the plot.
“I was a victim here and I also gave evidence during Reverend Monyau’s trial,” he said.
He said his M4 million claim is based on factors that include the army authorities’ refusal to reinstate him despite the High Court judgment.
He also said he suffered humiliation, pain and suffering in the process.
The case continues.