Court blocks soldiers’ eviction

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MASERU — The Lesotho High Court on Tuesday blocked efforts by Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Thuso Motanyane to evict two soldiers accused of high treason from the army residence.

Motanyane had in June last year ordered Captain Ramabele Mokhantsó and Captain Lehloa Ramotsó to vacate the LDF houses at Ratjomose barracks claiming that their stay was a threat to national security.

Motanyane said the two officials were facing treason charges following the 2007 political disturbances.

However, Motanyane later revoked his decision saying the army’s top officials had assessed the situation and resolved that the order against Mokhantsó and Ramotsó to vacate the houses should be reversed.

But on April 30, eight days after the State House was attacked in what was believed to be an attempt on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s life, Motanyane changed his decision again.

He told the duo that the decision to allow them to continue staying in army houses had been reversed and they should vacate.

The two officers however challenged the decision in the High Court arguing that Motanyane’s action was unreasonable.

In his response, Motanyane said the decision to evict the officers had been made after a resolution was passed to tighten national security.

He said he considered their continued stay in the barrack premises a threat to national security. 

High Court Judge Semapo Peete on Tuesday overturned Motanyane’s decision saying the commander had not given valid reasons for evicting them.

Justice Peete said Motanyane’s speculation that Mokhantsó and Ramotsó might have been involved in the attacks at the State House and Makoanyane barracks was not supported by facts.

“It is common cause that no charges were preferred to the applicants regarding the attacks at the State House and the Makoanyane barracks in April.

“They should have been formally confronted with facts when given the recent notice to vacate the quarters, said Justice Peete.

“My order is that the latest notices by the commander, to get the applicants evicted, are set aside and the applicants should continue staying in the army quarters.” 

Peete however recommended that Motanyane could establish a commission of inquiry to ascertain if Mokhantsó and Ramotsó were not involved in the April attacks on the State House and the army barracks.

He said it is only the findings of the commission of inquiry that can justify Motanyane’s decision on whether Mokhantsó and Ramotsó should vacate the houses on the basis that they pose a threat to national security or not.

“The effect of this order is that they should continue staying in the quarters because there is no direct involvement in the April events shown in court against them,” said Justice Peete.

“However the commander is at liberty to make inquiries in conjunction with the NSS (National Security Services).

“The outcome of the inquiry might make them vacate the premises but only if they are found to have taken part in the April attacks.”

The two army officers are on suspension after they were charged with treason for their alleged involvement in the 2007 attacks on ministers’ homes. 

Since they were remanded in the Magistrates’ Court they have not yet been indicted in the High Court to answer charges against them.

Justice Peete recommended that the commission of inquiry should be composed of  army officials and members of the NSS in terms of the law.

After the 2007 political disturbances Mokhantsó was charged in the court marshal for disobeying orders.

He was also charged with contravening the law that governs the LDF for deploying female soldiers without rifles during the 2007 disturbances.

The court marshal found Mokhantsó guilty and demoted him from the rank of major to captain.

The two are also charged with contravening provisions of the Internal Security Act of 1984.

Their co-accused in the treason case, Makotoko “Mashai” Lerotholi, is still at large.

He is currently in South Africa battling to fend off attempts by the Lesotho government to extradite him.

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