2 December 2017

Lesotho: Closure for Families of Mohale Trio

Photo: Pixabay
Judge's gavel (file photo).

THE remains of the three men killed by Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) officers and thrown into Mohale dam in May this year were retrieved on Monday following a search that started last month.

Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli said both local and South African divers had made a breakthrough with the assistance a South African sniffer dog and high-tech equipment, including some bought by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), this month.

"It was a heartbreaking moment to finally see the bodies being retrieved because we are talking about human beings whose lives were cut shot. We would like the families of the deceased to know they are in our prayers. This is a difficult time for them and only the love of God can give them true comfort," Commissioner Molibeli said.

He said the divers had faced several challenges in locating the bodies including bad weather and inadequate equipment in the beginning of the search.

"Upon resuming the search over a week ago with new high-tech equipment, the South African team had not brought their sniffer dog because they thought it had already identified the spot where the bodies were buried, but after searching the area, they realized there was nothing. They had to collect the dog, which managed to help locate the remains on Tuesday," he said.

The bodies were tied with stones to ensure they did not surface above the 145 m high and 700m long dam, around Ha Montši and Ha Korporala part of Mohale. However, Comm Molibeli said due to the very cold water temperature, the bodies were still largel intact.

The three young men - Khothatso Makibinyane, Lekhoele Noko and Molise Pakela lost their lives under violent circumstances only their killers can explain.

The use of stones was to ensure they would remain missing without a trace and forever remain a mystery to their loved ones.

Their deaths had been orchestrated in a most cruel manner which reflected a complete disregard for human life and lack of respect for the rule of law, Commissioner Molibeli said.

Some people interviewed yesterday said if the three had done anything wrong, the best course of action would have been to prosecute them in courts of law instead of murdering them in the way they were killed.

"I am heartbroken because theirs was a horrific story they never lived to tell," 'Manapo Khanyane of Maseru said.

After they were taken into police custody and interrogated for three days, they were released after no evidence was found tying them to the Maseru border shooting of a vendor and an army officer. The man suspected of the shooting is currently in custody, according to Comm Molibeli.

However, after leaving the police, they never made it home on 16 May when buses supposed to take them home were accosted by unknown gun men who subsequently abducted them.

The abductors, including a Brigadier fingered in ordering the criminal operation are Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi (43); Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi (50); Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali (32); Private Nthatakane Motanyane (24); Brigadier Rapele Mphaki (47); Motšoane Machai (39); Liphapang Sefako (48); Nemase Faso (28) and Private Tieho Tikiso (28). They allegedly took them to their military torture camp in Setibing, where they strangled them before dumping their bodies in Mohale dam.

All nine have since confessed to the gruesome murder and were yesterday remanded in custody. Some relatives of the deceased consoled each other at the Lesotho Funeral Services yesterday after witnessing the postmortems of the deceased.

'Makhothatso Makibinyane could not hide her pain and tears rolling down her cheeks just said it all.

Her sister, 'Manyatso Kotelo summoned courage and said: "We are comforted by the fact that their bodies have been found and this confirms what we had suspected all along. We were desperate for even only their bones so that we could have closure. Words cannot describe the pain we feel. We would like to thank the Police here in Lesotho and those who came from South Africa for their support," Ms Kotelo said.

'Makarabo Mojakisane, who is an aunt to the late Lekhoele Noko said it is difficult to imagine human beings did this. "We have never seen anything like this but at least we will find closure. We will now deal with a different kind of pain. We are grateful that their remains have been found and they will be laid to rest in peace. This has been the most trying time for us."

Mosesane Pakela, the brother to the late Molise Pakela said, "What is important now is that we have found his remains. It's sad that he had to die in such a manner, God shall surely judge, avenge and comfort us."

The legal representative of the family Advocate Khotso Nthontho said he was relieved that there was progress.

"When anyone applies for a habeas corpus it's because they suspect that the person in question might be dead. In this case, the justice system has worked because the courts were patient to call in all witnesses and do their investigations," he said.

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