Lesotho: Minister Cries in Court

MINISTER of Labour and Employment, Tšeliso Mokhosi, broke into tears while testifying in court this week in the murder case of four police officers accused of the March 2016 murder of their colleague, Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng.

Mr Mokhosi told the court that the police arrested and tortured him in 2017 until he soiled himself.

He was the Minister of Defence and National Security, in the coalition of then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, when PC Khetheng was murdered.

Subsequently, he was arrested and charged after the Mosisili coalition was succeeded by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane's own coalition in June 2017. Mr Mokhosi had been the fifth accused in allegedly orchestrating PC Khetheng's murder until he was discharged and turned into a state witness in June 2020. He threw a party at his Khubetsoana home the day he was acquitted.

Mr Mokhosi was on Monday called in as the seventh defence witness in a trial within a trial in which former Hlotse Police Station commander, Senior Superintendent (SSP) Thabo Tšukulu, and three others are standing trial for PC Khetheng's murder.

SSP Tšukulu is charged alongside Superintended Mathibeli Mofolo, Inspector Mabitle Matona and Sub Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane.

The trial within the trial was launched in December last year to establish if the pointing out of evidence by the accused was done freely and voluntarily.

This after defence sought to challenge the admissibility of the evidence given by one state witness, Inspector Rapelang Nkeane, who told the court that Messers Mofolo, Matona and Taasoane had took the police investigators to Ha Setho, Maseru, where they pointed to a place they claimed to have dumped PC Khetheng's corpse.

And on Monday when led in evidence by one defence lawyer, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda KC, Mr Mokhosi informed trial judge, Justice Charles Hungwe, that he was arrested by Detectives Tankiso Lethoko, Chabalala, Mohoang and Nkieane in 2017.

He said the quartet used a plastic bag, iron rod and hand cuffs to torture him until he soiled himself at the Police Headquarters in Maseru where he had been handed over by his then lawyer, Attorney Qhalehang Letsika.

"After my lawyer left, they asked if I knew anything about Khetheng's death and I told them I knew nothing... I was never told my rights at the Police Headquarters before the interrogation. The police ordered me to take off my clothes and lie on my stomach with my hands at the back. They tied me and twisted me so that my feet could go through the hands which were cuffed.

"They then took a plastic bag, made it wet, and covered my head with it. I tried not to breath to avoid suffocating and when they realized I was not breathing they started kicking me all over the body. They continued until I suffocated and became numb. When I was about to lose my breath, I soiled myself. They then uncuffed me and told me to go to the toilet to clean myself.

"I had bruises, abrasion and a severe headache. Afterwards they took me to a clinic at White City (Katlehong in Maseru). I was unable to walk properly. The doctor who attended me was so shocked and told me he was going to tell them to stop torturing me. He put two tablets under my tongue and said my blood pressure was too high and he was surprised that I hadn't stroked. He kept me there under observation for about an hour. I told them I wanted to see a doctor of my choice and after two hours they took me to one Dr Mofubelu who put me on drips," said Mr Mokhosi.

He said they wanted him to implicate his boss, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader Mothetjoa Metsing, in the matter but he refused. Mr Mokhosi is the LCD deputy leader.

"The Police said they knew that I was not involved in the matter but wanted me to implicate Metsing as he was the Deputy Prime Minister from 2012 to 2017. I told them that I did not know Metsing's involvement in the matter. I was interrogated until around 17:30hours when a majority of the police officers left.

"Lethoko who was the youngest said to me Mokhosi ngoana motho o shoele ha rena bapala le oena (loosely translated, 'Mokhosi someone's child has died so we are not going to play with you')."

Mr Mokhosi said he was taken to the Maseru Magistrates Court the following day where he appeared before Magistrate Litšitso Selialia for confession. He said he was forced to lie when making a confession.

"They guided me on what to say and threatened to continue the torture if I did not do as they told me. I did as I was instructed. The magistrate gave back the statement to Chabalala."

Mr Mokhosi said he was then remanded in custody but later on bailed. He said after he was released, he planned to hold a press conference to tell the world about his torture but he got "intelligence" that he was going to be re-arrested. He then opted to skip the country.

He could not hold his tears when he explained how he had "survived death by a whisker" at the hands of the police. The court had to adjourn for a few minutes to give him time to cool down.

"It is by the grace of God that I lived, given the inhuman treatment I was subjected to by the police. I decided not to take any further action against the police and left everything to God," said Mr Mokhosi.

However, in cross examination, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane, who is prosecuting the matter, said Mr Mokhosi could not be trusted as he had just confirmed that he lied before Magistrate Selialia.

"You said you lied at the magistrate after you took oath. So why should this court believe you now? This evidence you are giving is not the truth. I put it to you that the magistrate could have picked that you had been tortured if that was what had indeed happened....?," said DPP Motinyane.

Mr Mokhosi insisted that he had been tortured but lied because he wanted to save his life.

Thereafter, Justice Hungwe postponed the matter to 27 May 2024 where both parties will make their closing addresses.

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