A lawyer representing some Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members detained at Maseru Maximum Security Prison on suspicion of plotting to topple the army command, fled the country on Sunday morning and sought refuge in South Africa.
Advocate ’Mole Kumalo yesterday told the Lesotho Times he decided to leave Lesotho after being chased around Maseru by “some soldiers” driving two vehicles.
A former LDF member himself, Advocate Kumalo of Maseru-based Legal Link Chambers, said he believed the men were out to abduct him, adding only his decision to cross the border into South Africa had saved his life.
Speaking to the Lesotho Times from South Africa yesterday, Advocate Kumalo said: “I cannot reveal exactly where I am at the moment lest I compromise my security. I hope I am safe here after fleeing Lesotho on Sunday because I felt my life was under threat from some Lesotho Defence Force members who chased me all over Maseru that morning.”
The lawyer said it all started with a call from a friend notifying him of a “terrible” car crash involving someone he knew.
“It was around 3am when I received the call. I immediately rushed to the scene in town where I realised that the guy was still trapped in his car. The police and some witnesses were already at the scene trying to help,” he said.
Soon after, Advocate Kumalo said some LDF members also arrived at the accident scene in two vehicles.
“One of them was clearly an army vehicle and was green in colour; the other was a white Corolla with Free State registration plates. But I know the Corolla belongs to the LDF intelligence department because I was in the army for 13 years. Then two soldiers in uniform came out of the green car to join the onlookers at the accident scene. But I soon realised that the soldiers had no interest at all in the accident, and I became suspicious.
“Because I am not on good terms with the LDF brass, especially following court cases in which I am representing some of the soldiers tortured by the army, I had this feeling that these people were after me and were not at the crash scene by accident.”
To test his suspicion, Advocate Kumalo said he suddenly left the accident scene, “after talking to a certain policeman to inform him about my suspicion, and the officer had also advised me to leave the scene because he had realized that something was amiss.”
The lawyer said he took the Main South 1 Road as he left the crash site “and I realised that the white Corolla was following me.”
Advocate Kumalo added he then tried to accelerate to get away from the Corrola, but it gave chase.
“I somehow stayed in front and eventually opened a huge gap between me and the Corolla. I must admit I was really afraid of what was going on at that time.”
According to the lawyer, he then managed to find a secluded place “somewhere along Main South 1 Road”.
After some time, when he thought he had evaded his persuers, Advocate Kumalo said he returned to the accident scene because he was “really concerned” about his trapped friend.
“When I came back, one of the police officers told me that the two cars followed me when I left.
“But thinking that I was safe now, I was shocked to see the green car arriving at the accident scene again and this time, I was sure they were stalking me. I left again, now taking the Main North I direction and they followed me once more.”
Advocate Kumalo said he was avoiding going home because he did not want his pursuers to know where he stayed.
“I didn’t want to bring danger to my life so I decided to circle around town hoping to throw them off my trail. When I managed to evade them once again, I waited until sunrise and then went home, told my wife what was happening, picked up whatever I had to take with me and left the country.”
Asked what he suspected could have been behind the chase, Advocate Kumalo said: “At some point, the army command announced on parade that I was the LDF’s number one enemy. This, I understand, was because of the many cases I was handling in which I was representing soldiers in torture and unfair treatment cases they were alleging against the LDF.
“At the moment, there are several soldiers I am representing who have been arrested and accused of planning a mutiny.”
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Times is in possession of a copy of a letter Advocate Kumalo wrote to the President of the Court Martial on 16 June 2015. In the letter, the lawyer expressed concern over “the prevailing security situation ” in relation to a certain case.
The letter reads in part: “Honourable President, I humbly wish to state that I feel it will not be in the best interest of justice to attend to this case under the prevailing circumstances due to the reasons hereunder written:
“The Honourable President will recall that I registered my concern with the same honourable court regarding my inability to freely represent the above mentioned client (name supplied) due to your organisation’s endeavours to be accompanied by heavily armed soldiers whenever I attend to cases at Mokoanyane (Barracks).
“I did show that this is not only uncommon but being done only to me as a private legal practitioner and that it is therefore a form of intimidation. That practice did not stop nor did I ever get any answer to that effect. It is also important to note that I have been declared the number one enemy of the LDF before a parade for reasons unknown to me.
“Presently there have been rumours suggesting a link between me and other lawyers pertaining to the recent on-goings in the LDF for which I would not take lightly for the sake of my life and my family’s lives. There have also been intimidating looks from some of the soldiers who accompany the detainees to civil courts which make me apprehensive for my life.
“It is therefore on the basis of the above and taking into totality the above-given circumstances that I feel I will not be able to truly represent the client under those prevailing circumstances. I must make it clear that I am, in no way, withdrawing from the case but rather humbly requesting your good office to attend to them and give us direction as to what can be done so that the administration of justice can be effected in a free environment.
“And without duly suggesting to the honourable court I hope to get guarantee for my safety, and in the event that it cannot be guaranteed, then hopefully the matter could be stood down until the dust has settled. I do hope that the honourable president and the panel do understand the predicament I am in and will therefore hopefully work towards finding an amicable resolution to this quagmire.”
Meanwhile, the Law Society, Transformation Resource Centre and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace yesterday issued a joint statement highlighting the plight of Advocate Kumalo and other lawyers who are being intimidated by members of the LDF.
The Lesotho Times could not get a comment from the LDF on these allegations until the time of going to press.