FICKSBURG- Exiled Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) member, Corporal Ngoliso Majara, says he is lucky to be alive after his colleagues shot him below the chin on 1 February this year near the Royal Palace in Maseru.
The shooting left Corporal Majara’s face disfigured and the hard-bitten soldier says he still cannot believe he survived the attack which shattered his right jaw and blew away part of his nose.
According to Corporal Majara, he was in the company of Major Mojalefa Mosakeng when their vehicle suddenly came under attack from their fellow soldiers as they passed the gate to the Royal Palace on their way to State House.
An M & A Security guard was fatally shot during the resultant exchange of fire, while Corporal Majara and Major Mosakeng had to be hospitalised for weeks in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where doctors and nurses worked around the clock to save their lives.
Both Corporal Majara and Major Mosakeng have never been back home since their discharge from hospital in March, as they fear for their lives.
Narrating his ordeal to the Lesotho Times in Ficksburg on Monday this week, Corporal Majara said he still does not know why they were attacked by their own on the fateful afternoon.
“The All Basotho Convention (ABC) was going to launch its website at Setsoto Stadium on 1 February 2015. Ntate (Thomas) Thabane (ABC leader), who was prime minister at the time, was being guarded by South African police in the wake of the 30 August 2014 attempt on his life and invasion of three Maseru police stations by the military, which he said had been a coup attempt.
“Major Mosakeng and myself were the advance team to his bodyguards; before he left any place, we would go ahead and inspect the route he was going to take and then report back our findings.
“We went through the same routine that day. We inspected the road between State House and the Royal Palace, and then Kingsway and Setsoto where the ABC rally was going to be held, like I said.
“During the inspection, we saw a military truck and 4×4 vehicle parked between the Ministry of Education and Training Headquarters and Irish Embassy, where the SADC Mission offices were located.
“In both vehicles, there were uniformed soldiers. We drove past the vehicles and identified some of the soldiers because they were our colleagues.
“We then decided to change the route for Dr Thabane and his South African bodyguards because we didn’t know why military vehicles were parked at that point with more than 30 uniformed soldiers.
“Ntate Thabane changed the route as we had suggested and attended the ABC rally that morning without any problem. After the rally, he had a meeting in town so me and Major Mosakeng decided to go back to State House. We realised that the military truck and white 4×4 van were still parked where we had seen them that morning, and now it was after 2pm. As we passed the spot where the vehicles were parked, one of the soldiers flagged us down. I was driving and when I saw that we were being stopped, I applied the brakes.
“And suddenly, the world started exploding around us, and I realised we were under attack.”
According to Corporal Majara, he tried to reverse the vehicle in a bid to escape the shooting.
“I reversed the car so that we could escape or maybe have a chance to use the guns we were both carrying. But I had already been shot and was bleeding heavily. I lost control of the car and stopped it near Maseru Post Office where Major Mosakeng was able to shoot one of the soldiers who was pointing his gun at me.
“After shooting that soldier, the concentration was now on Major Mosakeng, while the others attended their wounded colleague. I saw Major Mosakeng being shot, and he fell as he was now out of the car. I thought they had killed him, and I managed to crawl to the Lesotho National Broadcasting Service (LNBS) premises to ask for help.
“I was then assisted by one LDF member who was on duty there; he took me to Tšepong Hospital and by that time, my family had heard about the shooting and come over to the hospital. I was then referred to Bloemfontein because of the severe injuries I had sustained.
“It was a miracle that the doctors and nurses managed to save my life, but I still don’t know why we were attacked that day.
“I can only guess that maybe it was because I was the one who facilitated Ntate Thabane’s escape from State House on the morning of 30 August 2014 against my superior’s instruction (name withheld) that he must be held hostage and his mobile phones taken from him,” Corporal Majara said.
According to Corporal Majara, he helped smuggle Dr Thabane and his wife, ‘MaIsiah, out of State House while they were in the boot of a vehicle of the premier’s relative (name withheld).
Corporal Majara said he was not even aware that three police stations had already been invaded and the residence of former LDF Commander Maaparankoe Mahao in Koalabata attacked that very morning.
“On the evening of 29 August 2014, Dr Thabane was a guest of honour at a Matlama Football Club gala-dinner held at Victoria Hotel and was going to give a keynote address. But he never got the chance to present his speech because he had to go back to State House and attend to his important visitor who could not wait for the event to end. After that meeting at State House, he did not go back to the gala and decided to sleep because it was already late.
“Towards midnight, Major Mosakeng called me and advised me to have a standby vehicle in case something went wrong. Being my superior, I didn’t question anything. After about 30 minutes, Major Mosakeng called me again and asked me to meet him at his office, which was located at State House. Upon my arrival, I found Major Mosakeng with one of our colleagues. Major Mosakeng said he had been sent by our superior (name withheld) to tell Ntate Thabane that he must rest assured that nothing would happen to him.
“According to Major Mosakeng, this superior had also said we should call Basotho National Party leader Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane, who, as you are aware, was Ntate Thabane’s ally in the previous coalition government.
“He also said we should call former police commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana, to State House and hold them hostage in separate rooms. Major Mosakeng said this superior had also said we should call Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing. Major Mosakeng stressed that we should make sure all the detainees’ mobile phones were taken away from them and switched off and that security was beefed up at the gate to State House.
“An officer who was with Major Mosakeng confirmed that what Major Mosakeng had told me was true. I left the office and went to the house, together with Major Mosakeng. On our way to the house, I realised that there were LDF commandos in the yard and I had a feeling that something was wrong that happen. I then followed Major Mosakeng to Ntate Thabane’s bedroom, and upon our arrival, I did not wait for Major Mosakeng to say anything. I quickly told Ntate Thabane to get ready and go with me because something was wrong. Ntate Thabane told me that he had just received a call that three Maseru police stations had been attacked and he immediately got ready to leave.
“I put Ntate Thabane and his wife into the boot of his relative’s Fortuner vehicle and asked the relative to drive out of State House, while I was in the passenger’s seat. But when the car approached the gate, I was asked to explain why I was going out of the gate. I was also asked about Ntate Thabane’s whereabouts. I simply explained that I had personal issues to attend to and that Ntate Thabane was still a sleep in his room.
“The soldier asked the whereabouts of Ntate Thabane three times and I gave him the same answer that he was still in his room sleeping. He then opened the gate without searching the vehicle and we went out. We fled Lesotho and Dr Thabane sought refuge in South Africa.
“There were security reports that I received afterwards that the army command had been angry that Ntate Thabane had managed to escape. Major Mosakeng joined us later in South Africa.
“In September, Ntate Thabane, Ntate ‘Maseribane, Ntate Tšooana and other government officials who had fled the country fearing for their lives, came back to Lesotho under the security of SADC.
“We were also part of the returning exiles. Until we got shot in February 2015, we had never appeared before any military hearing for not reporting to the barracks and staying with Ntate Thabane. However, in April 2015, our salaries were stopped and until now, we still don’t know our fate within the LDF.”
According to Corporal Majara, he did not know when he would be returning to Lesotho although he is listed as one of the people to testify before the on-going SADC Commission of Inquiry into Lesotho’s political and security instability.
“Right now, I am here in South Africa, although I cannot reveal exactly where I am staying. But I am hoping to return home and testify before the SADC Commission and hopefully, be able to live in Lesotho in peace once again.”