Former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, and others will soon face treason charges in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, government sources have revealed.
Yesterday the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, refused to comment on the issue saying "criminal charges are not communicated through the press.
"The press and the public only get to learn about charges preferred against suspects when they have finally been preferred in a court of law," Advocate Motinyane said in a telephone call from Johannesburg where she was attending a meeting.
However, judicial sources close to the developments said treason charges would be brought against Lt-Gen Kamoli and others in connection with the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against Dr Thabane.
Lt-Gen Kamoli and several soldiers are already facing murder and attempted murder charges. During their 22 October 2019 court appearance the chief prosecutor Adv Shaun Abrahams asked Botswana judge, Justice Onkemetse Tshosa, for more time as the state wanted to prefer more unspecified charges against them and add more suspects to their case.
Last Friday, Justice Tshosa granted Adv Abrahams' request for more time to prefer the additional charges against Lt-Gen Kamoli and others and postponed the matter to 21 January 2020.
"The court orders that the Lesotho Correctional Services should ensure that the accused are at court by 8am on 21 January 2020," Justice Tshosa ordered.
This after Adv Abrahams had told the court that he and the police were still busy compiling the charges which he said "revolved around 29 and 30 August 2014 which was an evening and morning of mayhem".
"The facts surrounding the charges is not as simple as I had thought and it revolves around 29 and 30 August 2014 which was an evening and morning of mayhem," Adv Abrahams told the court.
"During the previous court appearance I indicated that the police were investigating another matter regarding the incidents of those days and I have had the opportunity to peruse the evidence collected by police. There are technical legal issues and material facts connected with it and therefore the past two weeks were not enough (to prefer the additional charges).
"However, we met with the investigating officer and gave ourselves a deadline and we promise that by the 21 January 2020 date, all will be clear regarding the said charges. We want this matter to be finalised in the interests of justice... ... "
Although Adv Abrahams did not elaborate on the charges, judicial sources told the Lesotho Times that the state intended to press treason charges.
"The state wants to prefer treason charges against Lt-Gen Kamoli and others who were allegedly involved in the attempted coup of 2014. This has been a long time coming because the state wanted to ensure that it had a water-tight case before proceeding. The state even engaged a private law firm to study the events of 29 to 30 August 2014 and prepare its legal opinion on the issue," a source within the judiciary told this publication this week.
Another source told this publication that the government wanted to press the treason charges as per its undertaking to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state Double Troika Summit in Luanda, Angola in April 2018
At that summit, the government presented its report on the political and security situation in Lesotho and indicated that treason charges would preferred on the suspects "who include some soldiers who are already in custody facing other charges".
Lt-Gen Kamoli is currently in custody at the Maximum Security Prison and among other cases, he is awaiting a murder trial in connection with the 30 August 2014 killing of Police Sub-Inspector, Mokheseng Ramahloko.
Sub-Inspector Ramahloko was shot and killed by soldiers who stormed the police headquarters in Maseru as the attempted coup got underway the same day. The soldiers who allegedly acted on the instructions of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Kamoli, also raided several other police stations in Maseru and seized an assortment of weapons. There was bad blood between the police, then led by now local government principal secretary Khothatso Tsooana, and the army then commanded by Lt-Gen Kamoli.
Three other army officers namely, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane (38), Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane (34) and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa (31) are charged alongside Lt-Gen Kamoli in the murder of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko. The three are also in detention with Lt-Gen Kamoli at the Maseru Maximum Prison.
Last year, the Lesotho Times obtained a confidential report prepared by a leading law firm commissioned by the office of the DPP to help in formulating the charges to be preferred against all the suspects in the 30 August 2014 attempted coup.
The report recommended that at least three cabinet ministers in the first Thabane coalition, which ruled from 2012 to 2015, and 15 Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) officers face several charges including treason for their part in the 30 August 2014 events.
The DPP's office had requested the law firm to state whether or not there were any prosecutable offences arising from the army's raids on various police stations which set off a chain of events culminating in Dr Thabane's flight to South Africa that year. Dr Thabane only returned to Lesotho under heavy South African police guard.
The law firm's report recommended that three former ministers and 15 soldiers be charged with treason, contravention of internal security regulations, murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault kidnapping or unlawful detention, robbery and malicious or unlawful damage to property, among others.
The three former ministers, according to the law firm's report, "met with the army officers and planned and executed the operation of 29 to 30 August 2014".
"The salient facts that led to the events of 30 August 2014 was the removal of the then army commander, Lt-Gen Tlali Kamoli on 29 August 2014 by the then Prime Minister Thabane and the appointment of the late Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao as the commander.
"This move by Dr Thabane became unpopular and was not well received by Lt-Gen Kamoli and most of the army command as well as some coalition partners in government, in particular, members of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).
"In the evening of 29 August 2014, the removed army commander Lt-Gen Kamoli called an urgent meeting of senior members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) at Makoanyane Barracks (in Maseru)," the law firm states in its report.
"It was in this meeting that Lt-Gen Kamoli informed the senior LDF members that he had received intelligence that the police were going to hand over guns to some members of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) which they will use to shoot and kill members of the LCD on 1 September 2014 during the LCD's political rally to protest the prorogation of parliament.
"Lt-Gen Kamoli said the army had to intervene and stop the police from handing over guns to the ABC. There was more to this operation than what was suggested by Lt-Gen Kamoli and his LDF command," the law firm states.
The law firm further states that Lt-Gen Kamoli's "so-called intelligence" which was the basis of the authorisation to conduct the army operation on 29 to 30 August 2014 was unfounded, unlawful and malicious in all material aspects.
"Firstly, there was no supporting evidence or any evidence at all, to suggest that indeed there was 'intelligence' that members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) were going to hand over guns to ABC members to shoot and kill members of the LCD.
"The only tangible evidence is that LCD members were pained that parliament was prorogued at the time when there was a motion of no confidence against Dr Thabane. Secondly, three army officers met with three (former) cabinet ministers to plan the whole operation and justify it to the nation," the law firm states.
The firm said it was clear that the three former ministers and the LDF command were bent on coercing the government to accept the demands of the opposition parties who desired to oust Dr Thabane from office.
"Another factor that makes the operation unlawful is the fact that during the day of the 29th of August 2014, Lt-Gen Mahao was appointed the new commander of the LDF by Dr Thabane acting in accordance with Section 145 (4) of the constitution of 1999. This means Lt-Gen Kamoli had been removed as commander of LDF and was no longer occupying the office of the commander of the LDF in the evening of 29 August 2014.
"In order to disguise and hide behind their unlawful actions, some or all of the persons committed or knowingly with intention, failed to prevent or report treasonable acts of 29 to 30 August 2014.
"When examining closely the incidents of 29 to 30 August 2014, all the requirements of high treason... were met. All persons who participated in the events of August 2014 are citizens of Lesotho who owe allegiance to the Kingdom of Lesotho... .They acted with the intention to overthrow the government or coerce it by force.
"What makes matters worse is that some of the persons who participated in the conspiracy to commit the offense of treason as contemplated under Section 74 were cabinet ministers while others were high ranking LDF officials who were expected to respect and uphold the constitution of Lesotho," the law firm states in its report.