. . . army spokesperson person of interest in criminal probes
LESOTHO Defence Force (LDF) Public Relations Officer, Brigadier Ntlele Ntoi is a person of interest in ongoing investigations of various unresolved crimes related to the military.
According to police spokesperson, Inspector Mpiti Mopeli, Brig Ntoi was summoned to police headquarters on Monday and Tuesday to assist with investigations into various unresolved crimes.
After each interrogation session, Brig Ntoi was released although he may still be summoned again since investigations are ongoing, said Insp Mopeli.
The police spokesperson would, however, not be drawn to divulge more details on the cases that needed Mr Ntoi’s assistance.
“I can safely say that he reported to the police this week but currently I am not in a position to disclose the nature of investigations we needed him for. It’s only when we are done that I shall know whether he shall be charged or not charged,” said Insp Mopeli.
LDF deputy spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Mashili Mashili, confirmed the summoning of Brig Ntoi to this publication.
“At the moment we don’t know why he was called and if there are any charges that will be preferred against him,” Lt-Col Mashili said.
Army officers who spoke on condition of anonymity said Brig Ntoi may be an important source of information in matters under investigation as an accomplice witness as he may not necessarily have participated in criminal operations but knew about them.
As army spokesperson, Brig Ntoi consistently refuted allegations the army was involved in any criminal activities.
Part of his job at LDF includes monitoring the media, briefing and providing technical advice to management on how to handle and manage media content, in addition to how to ‘cooperate’ with the media.
Sources close to the investigations have told the Lesotho Times that Brig Ntoi was quizzed over crimes committed under the tenure of former LDF commander, Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli.
Lt-Gen Kamoli was appointed as army boss in April 2012 but was forced out in December last year amid intense pressure from Lesotho’s development partners and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
His tenure at the helm of the LDF was characterised by political and security instability in Lesotho which prompted the intervention of SADC on a number of occasions.
Lt-Gen Kamoli has since been charged with the murder of Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko during a 30 August 2014 army raid to disarm three key Maseru police stations which was deemed an attempted coup by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
The raid was conducted soon after Dr Thabane had fired Lt-Gen Kamoli as LDF chief, a decision which the latter resisted.
The former army boss also faces 14 counts of attempted murder for 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.
Brig Ntoi’s interrogation comes in the wake of multiple arrests and charging of soldiers implicated in various crimes, including the 9 July 2016 near fatal shooting of Lesotho Times Editor Lloyd Mutungamiri on.
Mr Mutungamiri was shot numerous times as he was arriving at his Ha-Thamae residence from work in the late hours of 9 July 2016. One of the bullets shattered his jaw and had to be surgically removed. Mr Mutungamiri also underwent jaw reconstruction surgery.
Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Khutlang Mochesane, Mahanyane Phasumane, Nyatso Tšoeunyane and Maribe Nathane, were last week charged by the Magistrate’s Court with attempted murder over the shooting and remanded in custody. The five, who include a brigadier, are expected appear again before the Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing on 13 December 2017.
Eight soldiers were also charged with the 25 June 2015 killing of former army commander, Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao.
Lt-Gen Mahao was fatally shot by his erstwhile LDF colleagues on 25 June 2015 just outside Maseru. The LDF claimed Lt-Gen Mahao had resisted arrest for allegedly leading a mutiny when he was killed.
However, Lt-Gen Mahao’s family accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.