By Staff Reporter
MASERU — Justice and Correctional Services Minister Mophato Monyake might have seriously misled cabinet and the entire nation over his claims that he had masterminded the arrest of Lehlohonolo Scott, Lesotho’s most wanted criminal responsible for some horrific ritual murders.
Mophato boldly claimed in several media interviews early last month that Scott had been arrested with the aid of private investigators he had engaged in South Africa after local law enforcement operatives failed to track the fugitive down.
But as more details over the Scott saga emerge, it is becoming increasingly clear that Monyake might have sent the entire country on a wild goose chase.
Monyake boldly declared last month that Scott, 26, who has been on the run after escaping from Maseru Central Prison on October 14 last year, was being held in South Africa.
“We have found him . . .” Monyake declared in several media interviews.
Monyake said Scott had been arrested after pain-stacking investigations by the South African private investigators.
He said he had engaged the private investigator after local authorities failed to make progress in tracing Scott since his dramatic prison break.
In fact Monyake claimed Scott, in the detention of the private investigators, had implicated local businessmen, who had allegedly aided him in the ritual murders.
The minister further said that he had initiated extradition proceedings and Scott would be in Lesotho in two weeks from November 7 to face the music. The two weeks have since long passed and there is no sign of Scott. Monyake has also become coy over the Scott issue. He is no longer commenting on the Scott story whenever challenged to clarify his earlier assertions.
South African authorities interviewed by the Lesotho Times this week have since expressed ignorance over both the arrest of Scott and the alleged extradition proceedings Monyake claimed to have started with his counterpart, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.
“In any event, if that fellow (Scott) had been arrested, it would have been impossible to have extradition proceedings completed and done in two weeks….,” one South African official said.
“Extradition is a complex process that can take years. Moreso if it involves countries like Lesotho that still maintain the death penalty. South Africa cannot legally extradite anyone to a country where they will be executed unless there are cast iron guarantees that the death penalty will not be imposed.”
Another official said: “We heard news that Monyake had become a celebrity in Lesotho after his claims that he had secured Scott’s arrest. No arrest was made by the South African Police Service. If Scott is in the hands of the private investigators, as claimed, then how is he being kept; is he in the garage or wardrobe of the private investigators? What is what here,” quipped the official, who also preferred anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media.
A contradictory report submitted to cabinet by Monyake, after his earlier claims of Scott’s arrest, also casts serious doubts on the minister’s credibility.
In his cabinet statement, Monyake said that private investigators had pursued Scott to Clermont in Durban with the help of the fugitive’s expectant girlfriend in a bid to nail him down.
“Scott was very nervous about the negative media coverage of his investigations in Lesotho and he refused to cooperate with the private investigators fearing for his life,” reads part of Monyake’s statement.
“It was at this time the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services (Monyake) advised cabinet that Scott had been found by the private investigators and arrangements were being made to hand him over to the South African Police.”
Monyake then proceeds to claim in his submission that details of the private investigators had been leaked to third parties without his authority. He claims that the third parties had then received threatening phone calls and had decided to suspend their investigations “until further notice”.
Monyake’s statement is contradictory in the sense that it suggests that the private investigators had in fact met Scott who had then refused to cooperate with them. But it then does not explain what happened to Scott afterwards. Sources said the private investigators would surely not have been in contact with Scott and then failed to have him properly arrested.
Moreover the cabinet statement was made long after Monyake had already declared that Scott had been arrested and was in custody of the private investigators.
Monyake’s claims of Scott’s arrest did also not go down well with Interpol South Africa, which subsequent to the Minister’s arrest claims, wrote a letter to Lesotho complaining about the arrest of suspects through inappropriate procedures. Sources say Interpol could have written their protest note after wrongly believing that Monyake’s claims of Scott’s arrest with the aid of private investigators were true.
Information from various sources now suggests that Monyake probably fabricated the story of Scott’s arrest for inexplicable reasons.
The minister might hence have dug himself into an inextricable hole by his unsubstantiated claims of Scott’s “arrest”.
Soon after Monyake claimed Scott’s “arrest”, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane rebuffed the minister’s claims saying Scott was still at large.
“If Monyake deliberately misled this nation and the cabinet, he surely cannot get away with it. Thabane must take the necessary action . . .,” one local source said.
Monyake has repeatedly refused further comment on the Scott issue when we have asked him to clarify all his earlier claims of the “arrest”.