THE hopes of scores of onlookers and journalists to catch a glimpse of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli, during his appearance at the Magistrate’s Court on Monday were dashed as he was sneaked in and out by heavily armed police officers.
In scenes reminiscent of court appearances for Hollywood stars, heavily armed police officers came in decoy cars to distract scores gathered outside the Maseru court from as early as 8am. In the meantime, the car ferrying Lt-Gen Kamoli went unnoticed to the back entrance from where he entered the court.
Clad in a black suit, Lt-Gen Kamoli first appeared before Resident Magistrate Lerato Ntelane and charged with one count of murder.
The murder charge is for the fatal shooting of police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko during the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
In the murder charge, the former LDF chief was joined to three army officers who were charged last month and are detained at Maseru Central Prison.
Captain Litekanyo Nyakane (38), Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane (34) and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa (31) were charged with contravening provisions of section 40(1) of the Penal Code Act No. 6 of 2010.
According to the charge sheet, the trio fatally shot Sub-Inspector Ramahloko on the chest on 30 August 2014 at police headquarters.
Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was killed during a predawn LDF raid on three Maseru police stations which the military claimed was meant to foil a Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) plan to arm civilians but widely dismissed as an attempt to topple a sitting government.
The 30 August 2014 raid was conducted soon after Dr Thabane, who had come to power after the May 2012 elections, fired Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli as head of the LDF.
Lt-Gen Kamoli refused to go and deployed soldiers to raid and seize arms from police stations around Maseru. Lt Gen Kamoli accused the LMPS of planning to give civilians firearms for use during a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) street protest that was scheduled for 1 September 2014.
The LMPS has since denied allegations it had ever planned to arm civilians and Dr Thabane fled the country after receiving a tip off that his life was in danger. He would then only return the next month under heavy South African police guard.
The court adjourned briefly, and when it reconvened, Lt-Gen Kamoli appeared before Magistrate Peete Molapo and charged with 14 counts of attempted murder.
The 14 attempted murder charges stem from the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesiah Thabane, ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana.
Ms Thabane, who at the time was known as Liabiloe Ramoholi, was with Victor Ferreira, Nthabeleng Lesoetsa and Keneuoe Letsie in the house.
Ms Moletsane and a Fane Moletsane were present in their Moshoeshoe II at the time of the attack.
Mr Tšooana ‘Mapalesa Tšooana, Palesa Tšooana, Reabetsoe Tšooana, Rethabile Selialia, Thuto Selialia, Nkopane Tšooana and ‘Mamose-Batho Ralijo were present in Ha Abia residence during the bombing.
For the prosecution, Senior Crown Counsel Lesaoana Mohale told Mr Molapo that the charges were as per the directive of acting Director of Public Prosecutions Hlalefang Motinyane.
Mr Molapo then addressed Lt-Gen Kamoli saying: “Are you Tlali Kamoli, a male Mosotho adult man aged 51 years from Ha-Leqele, Sekoting; currently a retired Lieutenant-General of Lesotho Defence Force?”
The diminutive former army commander stood up in the dock and replied calmly: “That is correct your worship.”
The magistrate then read the charges to Lt-Gen Kamoli and advised him of his constitutional rights; that included a right to apply for bail and to legal representation.
Lt-Gen Kamoli then pointed at Advocate Molise Molise and said: “There is my lawyer.”
Advocate Molise confirmed to the court that he represented him and that he would apply for bail on behalf of the former LDF commander before the High Court.
The court was then adjourned.
Immediately after the magistrate got out of the court room, Lt-Gen Kamoli’s relatives gathered around him, while plain clothed police officers and one from the police’s Special Operations Unit unit stood nearby.
The police officers then escorted him to a car stationed outside the court’s back entrance and whisked him to Maseru Central Prison. The gathered crowd and photographers only saw the South African-registered vehicle speeding off along with other vehicles without a chance to.
Also present at the court were members of the South African Development Community Oversight Committee, highlighting the high profile nature of the case.
Lt-Gen Kamoli handed himself over to the police on Wednesday last week after being summoned to assist with investigations into crimes committed during his four-year tenure at the helm of the LDF.