Army returns seized weapons

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Keiso Mohloboli

The Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) this week returned an assortment of firearms its members seized from Police Headquarters on 30 August 2014, highly placed sources told the Lesotho Times yesterday.

According to the sources, the arms were returned after Acting Police Commissioner (APC) Masupha Masupha told LDF authorities that they were needed for presentation in court as part of evidence.

Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana told a media conference a week after the early morning raid that  the army confiscated 44 assault rifles belonging to the police, “and many other weapons” which were to be used as evidence before the courts of law.

“The army also took away cases of Savannah cider and Coca-Cola and four cell-phones, which were also exhibits to be used as part of evidence before the courts. They took some keys to our offices, cars and motorbikes and further drove away in police vehicles, including the one I normally use,” he added.

Commissioner Tšooana further said the soldiers demanded dockets and files pertaining to some high-profile cases the police were investigating at the time.

“The dockets included those relating to Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s corruption cases, and others involving some senior-ranking members of the LDF. The soldiers managed to get some of the dockets, but not all of them,” he added.

The police chief further said during the attack, nine police officers were badly injured, while one sub-inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko, was shot dead at Police Headquarters.

However, after the raid, which Prime Minister Thomas Thabane said was an abortive attempt to overthrow his government, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitated the signing of the Maseru Security Accord (MSA) on 23 October, aimed at ending the turf war.

The Accord saw LDF bosses Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, and Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli and Commissioner Tšooana being sent out of the country on leave of absence, while their deputies, Masupha and Major General Khoantle Motšomotšo, took charge.

The stand-in leaders have since been holding meetings which seek to find lasting peace between the two agencies, and are also organising activities that involve LMPS and LDF personnel. One of those activities was yesterday’s march from Mabote Police Station to Ratjomose Barracks by LDF and LMPS members led by Acting Commissioner Masupha and Major General Motšomotšo.

“Acting Commissioner Masupha wrote a letter to Major General Motšomotšo on Tuesday this week, asking for the return of the seized weapons. The communiqué was part of the on-going interaction between the LDF and LMPS chiefs, aimed at normalising relations between the two security agencies.

“Masupha stressed that the weapons were needed for presentation in court as part of evidence. He further identified the guns by their case and serial numbers to make it easy for the army to identify those that were needed as a matter of urgency,” the source said.

“However, not all the seized weapons were returned but those which were surrendered, were the ones the police said they needed urgently. But because of the new and cordial relations that now exist between the LDF and LMPS, we are confident all the weapons, and everything else seized during the raid, would be returned in due course.

“There is also renewed hope in the LMPS that with this new cooperation, even those members of the army wanted by the police to help in our investigations, would be surrendered. These indeed, are different times in the police. Let’s hope the relations continue to improve because I can see a genuine will to end hostilities between the police and army.”

Contacted for comment last night, Police Spokesperson Lebona Mohloboli confirmed there are on-going meetings between the LMPS and LDF aimed at “normalising “ relations between the two previously feuding organisations.

However, Senior Inspector Mohloboli could neither confirmed nor denied that the army had returned some of the seized weapons, insisting: “This is a controversial security issue that I will not comment further about. What I can only say is that Ntate Masupha did not issue any letter to the LDF. The fact of the matter is he has had meetings with LDF authorities but has not written any letter.”

Assistant Commissioner Masupha would not comment when contacted on the issue last night, as he referred the Lesotho Times to Senior Inspector Mohloboli.

Meanwhile, repeated attempts to get a comment from LDF Public Affairs Officer, Major Ntlele Ntoi, were fruitless as his mobile phone rang unanswered.

LDF Acting Commander Major General Motšomotšo, on the other hand, refused to comment when contacted late last night, as he referred the Lesotho Times to Major Ntoi.

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