May 28, 2024


4 min read

‘I was protecting soldiers from brutal cops’

‘I was protecting soldiers from brutal cops’

Former army boss, Lt Gen. Tlali Kamoli

Story highlights

    Witness says Kamoli told him he was willing to release soldiers on condition they would not be tortured
    Evidence in court shows former PM had publicly ordered police to torture suspects privately

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DETAINED former army boss, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, has stated that he did not release soldiers wanted for questioning regarding human rights violations because he feared for their safety, given the police's notorious reputation for torturing and killing suspects at that time.

Kamoli, who appeared before High Court Judge ’Maliepello Makhetha on Monday, addressed the treason charges against him through his lawyer, Advocate Letuka Molati.

He asserted that he had no issue with releasing the soldiers but was concerned about their safety during police interrogations.

As a commander, Kamoli felt a duty to protect his soldiers and sought assurances that they would not be harmed.

He mentioned engaging in discussions with various authorities to secure these assurances.

His fears were based on reports of several deaths in police custody and statements by then-Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, who had publicly ordered police to torture suspects privately.

Kamoli stated that when he personally testifies, he will tell the court that he was so concerned for the soldier's safety that he ordered the late Brigadier Bulane Sechele to go to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to inquire if the soldiers in question could still be charged without going through the police.

"Accused number one (Kamoli) will tell the court when he testifies that Sechele came back with a report that police could indeed issue summonses calling the suspects to appear before a magistrate or any other court, but police did not facilitate that process," said Adv. Molati.

Kamoli's claims were corroborated by the first state witness in the case, Colonel Tanki Mothae.

He testified about his knowledge of the events that led to the alleged treason, stating that Prime Minister Thabane had asked him to mediate between Kamoli and the then Police Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana, as the pair were not on good terms.

It was also at this time that Kamoli refused to release the soldiers.

Mothae said Kamoli told him he was willing to release them on the condition that they would not be tortured and their safety would be guaranteed.

Mothae relayed this feedback to the Prime Minister and the Commissioner of Police (COMPOL) and suggested appointing a mediator to mend relations between the two heads of security agencies.

However, the mediation did not occur for reasons unknown to him.

At the time, Mothae was attached to Botswana as a diplomat.

He recounted that his mediation was followed by a visit from Major Lekhooa and Ntoi at his offices in Botswana.

Mothae told the court that the pair discussed the security and political situation in Lesotho, including Prime Minister Thabane's interference in security issues.

They also alleged that the All Basotho Convention (ABC) had a group of members being trained at Sethaleng sa Mopapa with the aim of joining the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

“They told me that would happen over their dead bodies,” Mothae said.

At the end of their discussion, Mothae inquired why Lekhooa and Ntoi raised their concerns with him instead of the relevant authorities. They replied that they considered him their mentor, having been a soldier.

Colonel Mothae stated that while the two majors claimed to have come on their own accord, he sensed they might be representing a larger group of soldiers. Through their conversation, he learned that relations between the government and the army were strained.

“I asked them to speak to the principal secretary in the Ministry of Defence at the time, David Sehloho, but they told me they had no confidence in him,” Mothae said.

Instead, the duo asked him to call the then-Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, who they believed could better explain the situation. “I found it improper to call the DPM and never called him,” Mothae added.

Mothae eventually liaised with Sehloho, explaining that Ntoi and Lekhooa were unhappy and raising the concern that they seemed to represent the views of many soldiers.

“I told him that what I discussed with the two gentlemen was too critical and that, as a soldier myself, I could sense that if not resolved, it would cause chaos.”

Ntoi was then asked to compile a report, which was collected by police from his office in Botswana. The contents of the report were not disclosed in court.

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According to Kamoli’s defence, Prime Minister Thabane charged him with treason for refusing to provide VIP protection to his then-girlfriend, Liabiloe Ramoholi, and for refusing to cooperate with the then Police Commissioner, Khothatso Tšooana, who wanted soldiers released for questioning.

Kamoli stated that his refusal to provide protection to Ramoholi equally upset Tšooana and damaged their working relationship.

Eventually, the former police commissioner provided police protection to Liabiloe.

Kamoli recounted his fear when he finally appeared before the police and was made to remain naked.

“Accused number one will testify that for most of his time in detention, he was made to remain naked,” Adv. Molati said.

“During his state of nudity, there was an attempt to torture him, but he told police there would be a disturbance in the country if he was seen to be tortured on his way to the remand court.”

Kamoli is charged, along with three other soldiers and politicians, Metsing and Selibe Mochoboroane, for allegedly attempting to illegally topple the government.

Four of the accused, including Kamoli and Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, are out on bail.

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