Lesotho’s apex court grants Private Mokitimi Senekane Justice

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By Itumeleng Koleile

The Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) plea to reverse the High Court’s decision that declared Private Mokitimi Senekane’s dismissal unlawful and invalid.

Senekane was dismissed from the Lesotho Defense Force in December 2007 accused of making derogatory statements about the army and its officers in an Interview with Public Eye Newspaper Journalist Nthakeng Phello Selinyane in 2007.

In handing down the judgement, President of the Appeal Court, Dr Kananelo Mosito said Senekane is a brother to the late Police Officer who was a Sergeant Monyatsi Senekane was shot by the army while quelling an alleged mutiny in 1997.

Mosito said Senekane was not happy with the circumstances that led to the killing of his brother.

“He was made to guard one of the people who had been implicated in the murder of his brother.

“He got verbal with one of his seniors and made derogatory statements about the LDF in an interview with one of the local newspapers,” Justice Mosito said.

Having made the allegedly offensive statements about LDF, Senekane got fired.

According to an Amnesty International report of January-December 1997 Sergeant Monyatsi Senekane was one of the nine police officers wanted in connection with the Maseru Central Police Station shootings of 1995 and another police officer were killed in circumstances suggesting they may have been extrajudicially executed.

The report by Amnesty international added Sergeant Senekane was shot dead on the night of 15 February 1997 by soldiers who reportedly ambushed his vehicle in a Maseru suburb.

Following the incidents the reports by amnesty international said in June Sergeant Senekane’s brother, Mokitimi Senekane, and police sergeant Thabo Tsukulu were charged with treason, in connection with an alleged petition calling upon the King to resolve conflict between the police and the army and obtain the release of the police mutineers.

In the weeks preceding his arrest, the report by amnesty international said Mokitimi Senekane had been pressing the police authorities for information concerning the killing of his brother.

And the report added that in December 1997 Advocate Haae Phoofolo, the lawyer representing the two accused, was arrested and charged with conspiring with his clients to commit treason.

“He was later released on bail. There was concern that the charges against Attorney Phoofolo might be politically motivated, aimed at hampering the defence of Mokitimi Senekane, Thabo Tsukulu and other police officers whom he was representing,” reads the report.

In his judgement, High Court judge, Justice Mokhesi in 2020 he said Senekane’s brother was killed in a military operation that was carried out at the Police Headquarters on the 16th February 1997 to quell a police strike that had been going on at that time.

“During the operation, Monyatsi was killed and naturally, the Mokitimi was aggrieved by this.

“On 08th August 2006, after nine years of the death of Monyatsi Senekane, an Inquest into his death was held, presided over by the learned Magistrate Tśeliso Bale (Inquest No. 26/2006).

“During the proceedings, it transpired that Leutenant General Makhula Mosakeng, Major Mafoea, Colonel Matobakele, Second Leutenant Nkeli and Leutenant Phaila were the likely suspects, the learned Magistrate decided to summon them so as to give them an opportunity to participate in the proceedings.

“The Prosecutor informed the Court that the above men had communicated their decision not to participate in the proceedings.  At the conclusion of the Inquest, the learned Magistrate recommended that all the five men be charged with Monyatsi’s murder.  The Inquest was held in June 2007.

“In 2004, the plaintiff was charged before the Court Martial for disobeying orders and was given two months confinement as a sentence. He continued to serve in the army after having served the confinement sentence until he was dismissed on the 16th November 2007,” High Court judgement reads.

Although the High Court ruled in his favour as it was declared that ‘discharge of the plaintiff (Mokitimi) by the commander from the LDF was unlawful or invalid and of no force and effect and is accordingly set aside’, the LDF appealed the decision.

However, the Apex Court dismissed the army’s application, ruling in favour of Senekane.

The army’s petition was dismissed with costs.