17 November 2017

Lesotho: Mohale Search Operations Resume

OPERATIONS for the search of the remains of the three men believed to have been killed by some army officers before their bodies were dumped into the Mohale Dam, resumed on Tuesday morning.

According to Police Spokesperson, Inspector Mpiti Mopeli, the operations had to continue in the absence of their South African experts who last month postponed the search due to bad weather, among other reasons.

"The operations were also placed on hold following recommendations by the South African experts who advised the need for specific equipment and additional manpower. In addition, cold weather temperatures also made acclimatisation hard for the team, which also comprised members of the Lesotho Special Operations Unit," Insp Mopeli said.

The team had reported the altitude was more than what they had anticipated, explaining the prevailing conditions hampered their progress in finding the remains.

Inspector Mopeli further explained that the police management has since procured the recommended equipment to facilitate continuation of the search operation even in the absence of the South African team's support.

"We have skilled personnel and the only reason why we had initially requested for support from South African divers was due to lack of equipment. However, with the equipment in place, there is no need for further delays," he said.

Although the issue of equipment has been resolved, the operations have resumed following a chilly weather conditions forecast by the Lesotho Meteorological Services last Monday.

The Met Services projected a 40 percent chance of scattered rainfall with a likelihood of snowfall in the highlands as of yesterday (Wednesday).

Although the search team will be undertaken by 15 divers, only 10 kick-started operations yesterday as the other five were conducting another exercise at the Maqalika Dam in Maseru, Insp Mopeli said.

The search operation aims to retrieve the remains of Messrs Lekhoele Noko; Molise Pakela; and Khothatso Makibinyane who were members of a famo music group called fefenene. They were arrested alongside two other men on 13 May 2017 after a shooting incident at the Maseru Bridge Border Post following an altercation over refusal to be searched. Two people, an army officer and a street vendor died in the shoot-out.

Two of the five men implicated in the shooting incident, a South African national and a Mosotho were released a day after the arrest while the other three - Noko; Pakela; and Makibinyane remained in custody at the Pitso Ground police station. They were only released on 16 May but were never seen again.

The trio's families approached the High Court demanding the police and the army to produce their bodies dead or alive, leading to police investigations that revealed strong suspicions that they were fatally strangled and thrown into Mohale Dam.

It is alleged that shortly after their release, the three men were abducted by some armed men from the bus they were travelling in on their way home.

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