Defence and National Security minister Tšeliso Mokhosi has announced the jury to preside over the trial of 23 soldiers detained at Maseru Maximum Security Prison on allegations they planned to topple the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) command.
According to a “convening order” the minister issued on Thursday last week, Major General Letsoela would be President of the Court Martial. Major Ketseletso Mofoka, Major Kamoho Ramoriting, Major Tlelima Matia, and Major ‘Marethabile Kebane are the other members of the court, whose sitting dates were however, not revealed in the ‘convening order’.
Mr Mokhosi has also appointed Justice SP Hancke of South Africa as the court’s Judge Advocate, while Advocate R Suhr, also of South Africa, is the Prosecutor and would be assisted by Major Bulane Sechele, Second Lieutenant Moeketsi Masehle and Second Lieutenant Mantšo Sello.
‘Waiting Members’ of the court are Lieutenant Colonel Rapele Mphaki, Captain Noahana Lebona, Captain Tieho Rankhone, Captain Senatla Damane and Captain Mosuoe Letsie.
Reads the ‘convening order’ dated 13 August 2015: “I, Mr Tšeliso Mokhosi, the Honourable Minister of Defence and National Security, acting pursuant to the provisions of Section 92 (1) of the Lesotho Defence Force Act No of 1996 (hereinafter called ‘the Act’) read with Lesotho Defence Force (Delegation of Powers) Legal Notice No 131/2000, do hereby convene the Court Martial for purposes of trying, jointly, the stated and listed members of Lesotho Defence Force attached hereunto on Annex ‘A’.
“The Court Martial shall sit at the erected structure near the Military Detention Centre (commonly known as Maximum Prison) in the district of Maseru, or at any other place which I may direct pursuant to the provisions of Section 96 (2) of the Act.
“I direct that the accused be charged with:
“Charge No 1 (Main Charge): Mutiny involving the use of violence or threat of use of violence contrary to Section 48 (1) (a) of the Act read with sections 48 (2) and 103 (1) of the Act in the event that it is not proved that such mutiny involved the use of violence or threat of violence.
“Charge No 2 (First Alternative Count): Incitement to commit mutiny involving the use of violence or threat of use of violence contrary to Section 48 (1) (b) of the Act read with sections 48 (2) and 103 (1) of the Act in the event that it is not proved that such mutiny involved the use of violence or threat of violence.
“Charge No3 (Second Alternative Count): Failure to use utmost endeavours to suppress a mutiny or failure to report that a mutiny is taking place or is intended contrary to Section 49 of the Act.”
The minister then lists the jury, and notes of his choice of Prosecutor and Judge Advocate: “After having consulted with the Attorney General in accordance with the Act, I hereby appoint Judge SP Hancke as Judge Advocate of the Court Martial.
“And after consulting with the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force regarding the appointment of the Prosecutor, I was duly informed that the Director of the Lesotho Defence Force Legal Service (a.i) has authorised Advocate R Suhr, in accordance with the Defence Force (Court Martial) (Procedure) Rules of 1998, to appear on his behalf as Prosecutor at the Court Martial assisted by Major Bulane Sechele, Second Lieutenant Moeketsi Masehle, Second Lieutenant Mantšo Sello.
“I direct that the record of the proceedings of the Court Martial be transmitted to the Confirming Authority for confirmation of the findings and sentence pursuant to the provisions of Section 109 (2) of the Act, but only in the event that the accused persons are being found guilty as charged. Thus done and signed at Maseru this 13 day of August 2015”.
Meanwhile, the detained soldiers’ lawyer, Advocate Haae Phoofolo (King’s Counsel) last night told the Lesotho Times he was ready to represent his clients before the Court Martial.
“Lawyers representing suspects of mutiny are ready to go before a Court Martial any time but we do not know the dates yet. However, this ‘convening order’ means it will be called soon.
“But it will be contradictory for the Court Martial to proceed side by side with the SADC Commission of Inquiry because they are all judicial bodies investigating the same thing. If the outcome of the Court Martial and the Commission of Inquiry contradict, surely there will be chaos in this country. It was reasonable for the SADC Double Troika summit of 3 July 2015 to suspend the proceedings of the Court Martial while the Commission of Inquiry is doing its job,” Adv Phoofolo (KC) said.
According to documents in our possession, the soldiers set to appear before the Court Martial are Brigadier Mareka, Brigadier Poqa Motoa, Colonel Stemere, Colonel Kolisang, Major Makhetha, Captain Chaka, Second Lieutenant Mohasi, Sergeant Mokhobo, Sergeant Semakale, Sergeant Lekhabunyane, Corporal Mokhoro, Corporal Letsilane, Corporal Lipoto, Corporal Manaka, Corporal Mohatlane, Corporal Chele, Corporal Motseko, Lance Corporal Jobo, Lance Corporal Molefi, Lance Corporal Makhooane, Private Pama, Private Bolofo and Private Ralitlemo. The soldiers were arrested by the LDF between May and June this year and have been in detention ever since.