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When the soldiers came to Liphakoeng

THE chaos started in the wee hours of last Thursday when Liphakoeng villagers were startled by gunshots. They opened their doors to find two military helicopters hovering over their village. Some soldiers were using ropes to land from the helicopters

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Within moments, the village was teeming with soldiers, with some perched on the nearby plateau to look out for people who might want to sneak out of the village while others ordered people out of their houses.

Factory workers who were already on their way out of the village were stopped. So were teachers and students.

Mothibeli Kenya, a right-hand man of Chieftainess ‘Mathikhoane Mathealira, said the villagers were frogmarched to the middle of the village where they were grouped according to gender and age.

They were then asked to produce their guns or identify those who had guns.

When no one came forward, the horror began.

Kenya said women were ordered to sing and ululate while men were beaten with sticks and kicked.

“The men were ordered to roll on the ground,” Kenya said.

The beating continued as they rolled in the mud.

The soldiers wanted to know the whereabouts of Tšepiso ‘Mosotho’ Radebe, the leader of Terene ea Khosi Mokata Lirope who stays in Liphakoeng.

Mosotho is said to have skipped the country three days before the raid.

During the beating, the soldiers appeared to be targeting a group of men they had found at Mosotho’s house.

Some of the men could not speak Sesotho.

“I was tortured the most because I’m not from here,” said Mohlalefi Mahasele, one of the men found at Mosotho’s house.

Mahasele, who is from Thaba-Tšoeu, said the army was vicious in their beating.

“I was beaten with a stick (lebetlela) all over my body.”

His face had fresh bruises and scars when he spoke to thepost last Friday.

He said the army demanded guns and wanted to know where Mosotho was.

He said when soldiers ran out of sticks the soldiers used shovels to beat them.

“We were asked when we went to Fobane.”

Mahasele said he does not even know where Fobane is.

Fobane is the village where five people were murdered at a home on April 18 in a brutal attack police suspect to be linked to famo gang wars that have rocked the area in recent months.

There is also strong speculation that the murders were linked to an earlier incident in Liphakoeng where a Terene ea Khosi Mokata Lirope member was shot dead and two injured.

It is understood that the two survivors named their attackers to their colleagues who then launched a revenge attack on the family in Fobane.

Mahlape Mohlouoa, who works at Mosotho’s bar, Student Palace, said the army stormed in and confiscated 169 bottles of wine. She said the army said the wine sold under the Terene ea Khosi Mokata had been illegally imported from South Africa. Mohlouoa said she was also beaten and forced to roll in mud.

“My body is still aching. I’m from a doctor now,” Mohlouoa said. Another victim who preferred to be identified as Rasta said he has been having serious abdominal pains since the assault.

“I have been given pills but I vomit them,” Rasta said.

Teboho Ketso, who claims to be Mosotho’s right-hand man, said his men assaulted by the army were not gangsters but were hired by Mosotho as builders.

He said the army also took Mosotho’s Fortuner car.

“They used a breakdown to seize it,” he said. Some of the assaulted men were able to see a doctor on Friday. Some have reported their assault to the Peka Police.

The army has said the raid was part of their Operation Puff Adder which is targeting illegal guns and ammunition.

Army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, told thepost that the operation was in line with “Section 145 of the constitution (as amended) and section 5 of the LDF Act (No4) of 1996”.

Asked about the violence that soldiers are said to have unleashed during the operation, Lt Col Lekola said: “We had to use whatever was possible for us to use to get those illegal guns and ammunition”.

Lt Col Lekola said the army conducted the operation with the police which he said could have more details about what transpired. Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala told thepost that the police was not part of “an operation with the army”.

“We went there after receiving reports but we were not part of a joint operation. We only arrived there later,” Senior Superintendent Halahala said.

Terene’s spokesperson Sarele ‘Lehlanya’ Sello, told thepost this week that his group is now working for peace.

Lehlanya said the continued killings were sabotaging his group to foster unity and peace among the Famo groups.

“I do not know what I should do right now. It is only God who knows that we sincerely need truth,” Lehlanya said.

“We really need peace. We are getting nothing out of this blood spillage. What are we benefiting from it?”

Lehlanya said they are not against the security agencies intervening but they should fully understand the problem first.

Majara Molupe

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