MASERU — The late principal secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture, Mohale Sekoto, was holding a white rosary in his left hand and a 9 mm pistol next to him when he was found dead in a toilet in June, an inquest heard on Monday.
The inquest heard that Sekoto, who was 56 at the time of his death, was found sitting on a closed toilet seat on the morning of June 8 at the ministry headquarters.
Constable Damane of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) told magistrate ‘Manapo Motebele that he and a colleague, one Mochekoane, rushed to the Ministry of Agriculture’s headquarters after receiving a report.
He said they were received by the ministry’s director, Lehlohonolo Ntumo, who told them that there was “a problem in the toilet”.
Damane testified that the main entrance to the toilet appeared to have been forcibly opened but the key was still on the door.
“When we entered we found him sitting on top of a closed toilet seat and still dressed,” Damane said.
“When I inspected him his left hand was holding a rosary while his right hand was stretched down.
“As we continued to inspect we found a 9mm pistol and a shell on the floor in a pool of blood.
“We came across a bullet shell in the basin,” he said.
Damane said he then instructed Mochekoane to go back and report the incident to the headquarters while he remained to cordon the scene.
The firearm had seven bullets, “safety” was up and the firearm was still corked, Damane said.
Damane said he immediately briefed Inspector Masoabi who had just arrived at the scene with other police officers.
Damane said Masoabi then instructed him to hand over all the evidence to a policeman identified as Seeko.
Seeko told the court that Damane handed him a Tumfolio AB 20117, a 9mm shell and bullet core.
“I was told that the deceased was suspected to have shot himself. He was sitting on a closed toilet seat and bleeding from the nostrils and the mouth,” Seeko said.
“He was also holding a rosary with his left hand and leaning against the wall.”
He told the court the deceased’s right hand was on the floor and there was a pool of blood.
He explained that on the wall behind Sekoto there was a bullet hole.
“I suspected it to be a bullet hole and when I dug inside I found a dead bullet.”
Seeko said when he inspected the deceased he discovered a wound at the back of his head.
They then ferried Sekoto’s body to the Lesotho Funeral Services mortuary.
The gun and the bullets, Seeko said, were taken to a firearm examiner.
Seeko told the court that after interviewing witnesses who arrived at the scene first his impression was that Sekoto had committed suicide.
Answering questions from relatives present at the inquest Seeko said he suspected that the deceased shot himself in the mouth and the bullet went through the back of the head.
Constable Mollo, who is attached to the Technical Support Service in the LMPS ballistic section, said he examined the 9mm pistol and the bullet shells that had been recovered by Damane from the scene.
“The purpose was to connect the shell, and the bullet with the 9mm pistol,” Mollo said.
Mollo demonstrated to the court how he carried the analysis and found that all the bullets had been fired from the same pistol that Damane had brought.
The probe has been postponed to February 20 next year.
On the day he was found dead Sekoto, from Peka in Leribe district, was supposed to appear before parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
The committee had also questioned him the previous day.
Although the nature of the committee’s questions have not been revealed the Lesotho Times understands that they had something to do with allegations of misappropriation of funds at the ministry.
At that time the ministry was under fire for alleged irregularities in the Block Farming Scheme, a project that was meant to help poor villagers improve their food security.
The motive was to fund the farmers so they could produce enough for themselves and make some income from the surplus.
There were allegations that the loans which were guaranteed by the government and disbursed by Standard Lesotho Bank were however abused by some senior government officials.
It is alleged that some of the senior government officials who had been appointed to mentor the poor farmers ended up being the biggest beneficiaries of the loans.
Most of the beneficiaries repeatedly defaulted on their loans but have continued to get more funding.