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How Mahao escaped death by whisker

Mohloai Mpesi

The fifth State witness in murder case of the late army chief Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, Corporal Mohale Phosholi (39) divulged an unsuccessful attempt on his life by two now-slain soldiers between August 29 and 30, 2014.

Phosholi who was attached at the Transport Unit of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) unpacked the horrific events that transpired on August 29 where he said the trio of the late Colonel Tefo Hashatsi and Brigadier Bulane Sechele alongside Lance Corporal Mokete Halahala rained bullets on the house of Mahao.

The witness gave his testimony before Acting Justice Charles Hungwe this week where he indicated that he had been given a false briefing by the Transport Unit Manager Warrant Mofilikoane that they were going to Mapoteng in the Berea district.

This is the case wherein the former army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kennedy Kamoli has been incarcerated along with Sargent Lekhooa Moepi, Corporal Marasi ‘Moleli, Sargent Motsamai Fako, Corporal Motšoane Machai, Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko and Corporal Tšitso Ramoholi, Captain Haleo Makara and Captain Litekanyo Nyakane for Mahao’s murder.

He said he was summoned at Ratjomose Barracks along with other LDF drivers to go on an operation in Berea but they should first pass by Makoanyane Barracks to pick other soldiers. 

He told the court that upon arrival at the Makoanyane Baracks all the drivers were told to handover their phones by sergeant Motleleng.

“I was driving a white single cab” he said.

He continued that there was the then Major Sechele, Captain Hashatsi and other officers near the car who were discussing the operation.

He said earlier on the day, information regarding Kamoli’s future as the commander made circles by a Facebook character masquerading as Makhaola-Qalo that Kamoli received a dismissal letter.

He said he did not believe the allegations because during Kamoli’s command the soldiers were given salary increment in a rate that enabled them to survive.

“The habit of police arresting soldiers from the army whenever they deemed fit stopped during his (Kamoli’s) time as commander,” he said.

He said that could have also been announced at the parade and witnesses a change of command.

“So I didn’t believe that and it did not sit well with me,” he said.

He told the court that Sechele had phoned a person unknown to him at the time telling that particular person to hide in the toilet.

“I asked him what was going on and he told me that I was still growing and would understand as time goes. This was now between 03:00 and 04:00hrs,” he said.

He said then Sechele, Hashatsi along with Halahala heavy equipment he could not identify in the car.

“Their faces were covered and they had armored vest and helmets,” he said adding that Halahala jumped in the front seat and told him they were going to the house of retired Lieutenant Mafoea at Koalabata while the duo took up positions in the back.

“We left for Koalabata, and upon taking a left turn into the village we saw the lights of another car approaching from the right (in Koalabata). They said I should hurry and block the road for that car,” he said.

He said they blocked the road for an oncoming white police twin cab truck which he later identified by its door printing to be a police vehicle.

“They asked whether I knew the vehicle, to which I said it might be the one which distributes nurses looking at the time. I lied because it was like these people were ready for war because when we left Makoanyane they said we were going to Mafoea’s place, but now they were talking about Mahao, it was confusing,” he said.

“After unblocking the road, the police emblem on the car became visible, so they started shooting at it with AK47 and Galilee riffles, they said I should chase it; I had to do that by reversing until I drove the car into a roadside farrow, which was deliberate so as to allow the other car a chance of escape.

“I didn’t know why we were shooting at them yet we never had conflict with, they were police going to work or coming from work, if was given a clear briefing of what was happening we could have killed them right at the spot where we blocked the car.

He said after the police vehicle escaped, they proceeded with their journey “…and after passing about three houses we got into a yard with a house of red bricks, they got off the car and I just stood there not knowing what to do, the lights of the car were still on and I could see the house and the toilet.”

He said Sechele shot the dog that was at the entrance of an outdoor toilet which he said indicated that there was a member of the family in the toilet.

“Sechele shot the dog and stood against the toilet facing the house and they pummeled the house with rifle bullets. I turned the car around and turned off the lights and disembarked from the car. I also had the gun with me.

“I and Major Sechele were using Galilee riffles while Halahala and Captain Hashatsi were using AK47s. It was surprising that they were shooting at the house but not shooting at the door to get inside the house,” he said.

“I was surprised when Major Sechele ordered that they should seize fire using their real names so loud that even the neighbours could hear. I remembered Major Sechele’s conversation earlier when he said one should hide in the toilet and listen to the names of people going there to kill him,” he continued.

Phosholi said they returned to the car “…and we left with Sechele hurling insults all the way, asking how Mahao would be protected by police officers yet claiming himself commander of LDF”.

He continued that Sechele received a call that one soldier has been shot at Ha Mabote. He made a call “…I don’t know who he was calling but I heard him say “General Sir we failed to find Mahao”.

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