MASERU – A soldier who was in the guardroom at the gate of the State House has described how the assailants who attacked the house on April 22 last year ambushed him after giving him the impression that they were part of the Lesotho Defence Force because of their armoured vehicle.
Four of the attackers were killed by the Lesotho security forces near the national abattoir as they tried to flee.
Private Theletsane, who joined the army in 2007, told the Jan Steyn Commission probing the attacks that guards were resting in the guardroom when the attackers arrived.
Theletsane said he was on duty between 3am and 5pm on the day of the attack.
He said that was the second day of his deployment at the State House.
He said he had barely settled in the guardroom when he saw “an armoured personnel carrier (APC) vehicle followed by Defender vehicles coming from the direction of Machabeng High School.”
“Those vehicles stopped at the gate where I was, I recognised that they belonged to the LDF,” he said, adding that the outer gate which is manually operated was half-closed to allow him to go to the sentry box outside while the inner gate is operated by remote control.
Theletsane told the commission that as the two vehicles stopped at the gate, “a person inside the armoured car indicated with his hand that I should open”.
He said he used the remote control from the sentry box to open the inside gate because he recognised the vehicles.
“When the armoured car had entered it boxed me into the sentry and as soon as there was a space in the sentry box a person from the Defender appeared and pointed an AK47 rifle at me,” Theletsane said.
According to the officer, a person who pointed the gun at him was speaking in a foreign language.
“He came to me and took a firearm from me. He asked me to lie down and he took my firearm,” he said.
Theletsane told the commission that the man ordered him to lie down.
However, Theletsane testified that he pretended to lie down but as he realised that one of the attackers was focusing his attention outside, he managed to slip into the guardroom and sounded the alarm.
Theletsane said he rushed to the guardroom to tell the guardroom commander, Sergeant Lepheane, what had happened.
“I was going to take a firearm in the guardroom.
“I fired a shot and Lepheana also fired,” he said, adding that it was then that the other soldiers woke up.
When the commission’s lawyer, Advocate Tsebang Putsoane, asked him whether he knew that the procedure is that he was not to supposed to let anybody in, without identifying themselves, and therefore he was negligent of his duty, Theletsane said he “thought the vehicles belonged to the Special Forces of the LDF and were coming to check” on something.