By Thuso Mosabala
Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner Holomo Molibeli has expressed concern over the disappearance of ‘Makarabo Mojakhomo who disappeared from police custody on the May 31, 2018.
In an interview with MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (MNNCIJ), Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli said they “are deeply concerned as the police administration about the disappearance of Mojakhomo and we are still conducting an investigation into the matter”.
Molibeli’s concern come as a reaction to the damning statement by a collaboration Amnesty International and the local rights group, Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) issued yesterday, June 14, 2018.
Through the statement, the two bodies call for “…end to enforced disappearance of Makarabo Mojakhomo”. Mojakhomo disappeared on May 31, 2018, two days after she was arrested by the police on allegations of fraud and theft by false pretences.
They also call on Lesotho authorities to provide Makarabo’s family “with accurate and regular information about her safety and whereabouts,” further stressing a need for immediate and independent investigation into the disappearance and public disclosure of the findings.
“Anyone suspected to be responsible for her disappearance must be brought to justice in fair trials,” the statement said.
Mojakhomo who is the former head of the Maesaiah Thabane Trust Fund was onMay 28, 2018 summoned to the Police Headquarters in Maseru to be informed of the charges she is facing.
According to the two rights bodies, she arrived the following day, May 29, 2018, with her lawyer where she got arrested on the said charges and held in police custody until May 31.
“During this time, properties that she allegedly obtained through crime were confiscated and brought to the Police Headquarters…(she) was interrogated on May 29 by a team of interrogators and was then held at the Maseru Police Headquarters until Thursday May 31 when she was due to appear in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court.”
Amnesty International is “worried that this is an emblematic case of what may constitute a culture of impunity in the country. The refusal of police authorities to disclose the whereabouts of Makarabo is deeply troubling. The organisations note with great concern the history of extra-judicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment in Lesotho. The organisations fear that if Makarabo is not produced in a court of law as a matter of urgency, she could become another victim of enforced disappearances.”
Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli had on June 4, 2018 told the media that preparations were underway for Mojakhomo to be taken to court when “on the morning of May 31, 2018, she was taken out from her cell and the investigating officer preparing her paperwork ordered her to sit outside of the door of office. When the investigating officer returned Makarabo was nowhere to be found”.
Not convinced about the police’s version of the events, the Mojakhomo family filed an urgent Habeas Corpus application on June 2, 2018 at the Maseru High Court. On June 3, the High Court gave the respondents until June 13 to file their response with the hearing set for today (Friday).
However, the High Court has today postponed the hearing to July 2,3 and 4 respectively.
Meanwhile, Molibeli reiterated the LMPS stance to MNNCIJ that Makarabo escaped from police custody, saying that “our position is very clear we cannot condone any form of lawlessness and we cannot be party to a culture of impunity. We still hold the view that the detainee escaped from the custody aided one way or the other.”
He continued that “we are not yet in a position to point a finger to anybody in or outside the LMPS. Hopefully having left any stone unturned we would be in a position to take appropriate measures. Like in the past, we proved that crime is not condoned by the LMPS irrespective of who commits it.”
He concluded contrary to Amnesty International and TRC’s call to end enforced disappearance that “this is not enforced disappearance but rather a case of being aided and abetted to escape from lawful custody. We are still adamant that Makarabo will be found still alive and we plead with anyone with information to assist.”