By Nat Molomo
MASERU — A Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) captain who is suing the state for M270 000 for torture and unlawful arrest during political disturbances in 2007 said he was arrested and tortured after he stopped soldiers from torturing a top lawyer.
Lehloa Ramotšo, who is a captain in the LDF, said he was arrested after claims that he was a member of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) party which was then in opposition.
He said he was tortured after he stopped some soldiers from torturing a prominent local lawyer, Advocate Salemane Phafane.
He is claiming M30 000 for unlawful arrest, M90 000 for nervous shock and M150 000 for assault.
Ramotšo, who was a pilot in the army, was giving evidence under cross-examination in the High Court yesterday.
He told High Court judge Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane that he was arrested on June 17, 2007 at the height of post-election disturbances.
The crown alleges that Ramotšo was arrested after he was found mounting an illegal roadblock where he was ill-treating civilians.
It also alleges that he forced people to frog-jump.
Ramotšo yesterday denied the charges.
“I found people already being tortured by soldiers,” he said.
He said when he arrived at Lakeside in Maseru he intervened when soldiers tried to torture Advocate Phafane.
Ramotšo denied that he was seen conducting illegal roadblocks near Lancers Inn, Lakeside Hotel and the Institute of Extra Mural Studies (IEMS).
Instead he said he was stopped at these road blocks by soldiers as he was passing.
He also denied that he was arrested for his activities in mounting illegal roadblocks.
“I was only arrested because it was being claimed that I was an All Basotho Convention member and had taken guns belonging to some soldiers,” Ramotšo said.
He made the remarks while being cross-examined by crown counsel Advocate Sekati Makhele.
Lesotho was plunged into political turmoil after the 2007 elections won by the then ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy party.
Ministers’ homes were attacked by armed gunmen leading the government to declare a curfew to stamp out the chaos.
The crown claims Ramotšo was among the people who attacked ministers’ homes.
When the crown counsel put it to him that he was seen mounting roadblocks at IEMS, Lakeside and Lancers’ Inn, Ramotšo flatly denied the allegation.
“I went past these areas and soldiers stopped me,” he said.
When the counsel also told him that he was also seen at a roadblock at Lancers Inn, he conceded that he was there but added he had been stopped by the soldiers.
However, when the crown insisted that in all those roadblocks, the plaintiff was on his own, Ramotšo replied: “It is not true, I found people already being tortured by soldiers who were already there.”
“I intervened to help a local lawyer Advocate Phafane against soldiers who were trying to torture him,” he said.
But he denied ordering junior officers to tell people to frog-jump.
“I never gave orders to junior officers and they never took orders from me,” he said.
He indicated that these junior officers had their own superiors.
He said he was in custody from June 17 until when he was released on bail on August 23, 2007.