Lesotho: Letsoela Sued for M2 Million

LESOTHO Defence Force (LDF) Commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, faces more than M2 million worth of lawsuits from two men who claim to have been tortured by the army separately in 2022 and 2023.

The duo - Fatlene Masupha of Lekokoane, Berea, and Sello Mabaleha from Matsieng in the outskirts of Maseru - have filed separate High Court applications demanding M1 750 000 and M410 000 respectively from the army.

Overally, the lawsuits are worth a combined M2 160 000.

According to Mr Masupha's court papers, he on 24 February 2024 was about to facilitate the sale of a gun between two men unknown to him in Khubetsoana, when about nine soldiers arrived demanding the said gun. It is not clear from the court papers why Mr Masupha would broker the sale of a gun between people he did not know.

Mr Masupha avers that he tried to explain to the soldiers that he did not have a gun with him, and no gun was found on him. However, he said they started assaulting him whilst still explaining.

He claims to have been kicked on the face, at the back and the right side of his ribs. He claims to have suffered a swollen face after falling during the assault. He says he also bled from the mouth.

"The Plaintiff avers that he was then cuffed both on the hands and feet and taken to Makoanyane Barracks. .....

"Upon arrival there he was interrogated by the said officers, with the addition of three others.... The Plaintiff avers that they started torturing him again as he was being interrogated ......He was held by the cuffed hands which were pulled to the back, enduring severe pain in that regard," Mr Masupha's court papers state.

He claims the soldiers were trying to force him to admit that he knew something about the gun. Mr Masupha claims he was also tortured with electric cables about three times.

He said he was rescued by one of the soldiers who suggested that he be taken to the hospital after noticing he was heavily bleeding. The soldiers then took him to Makoanyane Military Hospital where he was operated to prevent internal bleeding. He says he was kept in hospital for about 10 days as he could not move due to the excruciating pain he was enduring.

Upon discharge, Mr Masupha says he was then taken to Mabote Police Station where he was again interrogated but was later released with an order that he reports back to the police the following Monday.

Upon his return, he claims he was told that nothing linked him to the said gun therefore he was free to go.

He therefore wants the LDF ordered to pay him M500 000 for pain and suffering, M80 000 for disfigurement, M350 000 for loss of amenities, M650 000 for wrongful arrest and detention, M400 000 for contumelia and M70 000 for future medical expenses. His demand adds up to about M1 750 000.

On the other hand, Mr Mabaleha is demanding M410 000 compensation for malicious arrest by four soldiers with no reason advanced to him on why he was arrested on 18 December 2023.

He avers that he was also repeatedly assaulted by the members of the LDF on his arrival at Makoanyane Barracks where he was questioned about a gun.

"The plaintiff (Mabaleha) was forced to strip naked, and he had been handcuffed. During that period, he was forced to kneel and do push ups while his hands were at the back. He was further suffocated by a tube and the said military police members were hauling insults at him," Mr Mabaleha submits.

He said he was later that night released with an order to report back the following day and he did as told. However, upon his arrival he was released and he reported the matter at Thamae Police Station.

Mr Mabaleha therefore wants the army boss to pay him M100 000 for pain and suffering, M100 000 for unlawful arrest, M10 000 for medical expenses, M100 000 for violation of his fundamental rights to freedom of inhuman and degrading treatment and M100 000 for impairment of his dignity and reputation.

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