THE hired famo-gang gunman who murdered a military officer and attempted to kill the officer's colleague at the Maseru Border in 2017 was found guilty by the High Court on Tuesday this week.
April 27, 2023
3 min read
Hired famo killer guilty of border murder
Justice 'Mafelile Ralebese
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However, the court found Motlatsi Rantaoana not guilty of the murder of Moeketsi Makhabane, a street vendor who was killed during a border shoot-out on May 13, 2017.
On that terrible day, Justice 'Mafelile Ralebese ruled that Makhabane, who peddled goods at the border, was murdered by a stray bullet.
Makhabane's lifeless body was discovered in his shack just minutes after the shootout between Rantaoana and ununiformed soldiers on patrol at the border.
Private Katleho Seliane was killed in the shooting, but Private Halekhethe Nkonyana survived with critical gunshot wounds.
Rantaoana of Mohale's Hoek, a hired gun for a known famo gang, was also found guilty of possessing an unlicensed pistol, which was used in the murder.
In his defence, he stated that when the soldiers in civilian garb approached him, they did not identify themselves as law enforcement personnel.
On January 26, he informed the court that, while he was mistaken, he suspected the two soldiers were members of a rival famo group.
He claimed he was afraid the two would disarm him, which the court deemed reasonable because the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
According to Justice Ralebese, the fact that Rantaoana tossed his gun into a nearby pit, proceeded to the police station, and lied about being shot is evidence of a guilty conscience.
She said there is no question that he shot Nkonyana, not his companion, Molise Pakela, whom he was attempting to blame, because he was aware that he was dead and unavailable to refute his charges.
One of the State witnesses, Lehlaka Lenka, said he saw Rantaoana arguing with one of the soldiers before shooting him dead.
During the heated debate, Nkonyana attempted to intervene, but Seliane was too hostile to listen.
He claimed that Rantaoana then fled the crime scene but did not get far before hearing another gunshot.
When Lenka arrived on the scene, he discovered the other soldier who had attempted to calm his colleague lying down on the ground.
“A few paces away, I noticed an old man selling his wares at a nearby stall also on the ground; he appeared dead,” he said.
Rantaoane, who will be sentenced later, was detained along with five other people, including Lekhoele Noko, Molise Pakela, Khothatso Makibinyane, Molise Motaung, and Tello Thoi.
Police then released Noko, Pakela, Makibinyane, Moataung, and Thoi when they discovered no evidence linking them to the murder.
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Rantaoana was detained and then remanded in custody by the Maseru Magistrate's Court.
However, after being released from police detention, Noko, Pakela, and Makibinyane were promptly kidnapped by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
The three were later taken to a military outpost in Setibing, on the outskirts of Maseru, where they were allegedly strangled before being dropped into the Mohale Dam on May 16, 2017.
Ten army officers are currently on trial at the High Court for the murder of the three men.
Major Pitso Ramoepana, Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, and Privates Nthatakane Motanyane, Motoane Machai, Liphang Sefako, Nemase Faso, and Tieho Tikiso are among those charged.
The 10 are being held in custody awaiting their trial.
The matter continues before Justice Moroke Mokhesi.