The mother of the deceased, Lekhoele Noko, who was allegedly killed by soldiers and thrown into Mohale Dam, this week told the High Court that she too was a victim of assault and cruelty by the said soldiers.
‘Malerato Noko, who appeared as the prosecution’s 9th witness before the court, told judge Justice Moroke Mokhesi that soldiers carrying big guns ambushed a bus she and her son were travelling in, to Maputsoe.
The soldiers, she said, mercilessly beat her up before they ‘abducted’ her son from the bus. That was the last time she saw her son alive.
Lekhoele Noko and two others, Khothatso Makibinyane and Molise Pakela were allegedly killed by soldiers at Setibing, on the outskirts of Maseru, and their bodies were dumped in the dam to conceal the act on May 16, 2017.
The three bodies were later recovered by the South African Police Service (SAPS) divers at Mohale Dam.
Currently in custody and facing murder charges of the trio are 10 members of the Lesotho Defence Force, namely, Sergeant Lekhooa Moepi, Major Pitso Ramoepana Captain Mahlehle Moeletsi, Lance Corporal Mahlomola Makhoali, Private Nthatakane Motanyane, Brigadier Rapele Mphaki, Motšoane Machai, Liphapang Sefako, Nemase Faso and Tieho Tikiso.
Noko, Makibinyane and Pakela were initially arrested on May 13, 2017, following a shootout that happened between two soldiers and a civilian at the Maseru Border Gate.
One soldier, Private Seliane and a street vendor, Moeketsi Makhabane, were killed while another soldier, Private Nkonyama, sustained serious injuries and was rushed to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
On May 16, 2017, ‘Malerato received a message that her son had been arrested and detained at Pitso Ground Police Station in Maseru.
She immediately left her homestead in Leribe and came to Maseru to enquire more about her son’s arrest.
Malerato told the court this week that when she arrived at the Pitso Ground Police Station, she requested to see her son but the police came with three and told her to identify her son.
She said after she had identified him, she was told that her son’s name had been cleared by the police as having not participated in the alleged crime that happened at the border gate.
Noko was subsequently released along with the two others.
‘Malerato and her son then left the police station and went straight to the bus station.
She told the court that they were stopped by a man wearing a yellow t-shirt who informed them that… “there are people who are going to follow you they are behind Pitso Ground Police Station”.
When they arrived at the bus stop, she said, they took a bus to Maputsoe.
“The bus left at around 3 pm. We were sitting on the back seat,” she said.
She narrated that while on the way, they observed that the bus was being tailed by three vehicles; a single van, a double cab van and a small white car.
Just when the bus was heading to Lekokoaneng, the double cab van overtook the bus and stopped in front of it.
“Men with rifles disembarked from the vans and started shooting in the air. The other two vehicles parked behind the bus,” she said.
She further told the court that in one of the vehicles that parked behind the bus, were the two men who were released along with Noko, supposedly Makibinyane and Pakela.
“The men then entered the bus and one of them was the one wearing a yellow t-shirt who warned us that there were people who were going to follow us. He pointed at me,” she added.
She explained that one of the men called her.
“I sat down because I could not go to a person that I didn’t know. They came to me and assaulted me; they were hitting me with the guns,” she said.
She added: “They beat me on the head with the buttstock of a gun I fell down then trampled over me.”
‘Malerato said when they were trampling over her, they saw Noko who was hiding under the seat.
“They left me, went to him and started assaulting him. They beat him until he lost consciousness,” she said.
“They carried him out of the bus and threw him in the front seat of the vehicle and it sped off,” she added.
She told the court that she was left badly injured so much that it was almost impossible to recognise her.
“That was the last day I saw Lekhoele alive,” she said.
The matter continued this week before Justice Moroke Mokhesi.
The eighth witness, Major Tsietsi Monyeke, has maintained that Brigadier Rapele Mphaki ordered the killing of Noko, Makibinyane and Pakela.