Two South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers were apprehended on Thursday night in Maseru after allegedly crossing into Lesotho without proper documents, police have said in a statement.
The soldiers were apparently also travelling with two border officials in a car.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said the quartet is accused of breaching Public Health (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 in that they travelled into the country without proper documentation.
He said the accused have committed an offence and are liable to a fine not exceeding LSL5 000, which is equivalent to R5 000, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding a month.
He said the Regulations clearly show that any person other than a foreign tourist coming from an affected country with no sign or symptom of COVID-19 shall be subjected to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.
And that has to be done under the supervision of health personnel monitoring his or her health status and shall observe self-quarantine protocols. So the four were not quarantined as per the regulations and therefore have to face the consequences.
Mopeli said preliminary investigations have uncovered that the accused were going to refill their car at a filling station in Maseru.
But witnesses said it has been a practice for the South African officials to come into Lesotho and return to South Africa to buy items such as foods previously without any problems.
Mopeli said the accused will appear in court as soon as investigations are complete.
The accused were picked up by the police and are now detained in police holding cells.
Meanwhile, two Lesotho soldiers (Dumile Tshoeunyane and Rorisang Moepi) are still detained in Matatiele, South Africa, facing five charges, after they were apprehended by South African soldiers a month ago.
They are facing charges of illegal possession of firearms, illegal crossing into South Africa and illegal possession of ammunition, stock theft and armed robbery. The soldiers said they were pursuing alleged thieves from South Africa who allegedly stole livestock from Lesotho. They were apprehended after apparently exchanging fire with South African soldiers. It should be noted that the border between Matatiele and Qacha’s Nek is very porous with no fence or river to mark it in some areas.
Lesotho army spokesman Lieutenant Kelebone Mothibi said the hearing date is set for Friday next week.
A Lesotho Defence Force spokesman told Eyewitness News this week that the SANDF agreed to facilitate their release on 7 August, and an aircraft was sent from Lesotho to Matatiele on that day, but the Maluti Court first said the prosecutor was unavailable, and then said the magistrate was unavailable.
“Many times SANDF soldiers cross the border into Lesotho and we don’t arrest them,” Lesotho Defence Force spokesman Mashili Mashili told Hoatiti News. “Last month they crossed into Mokhotlong in pursuit of stolen livestock, and we helped them to find the livestock that was taken from South Africa and they returned with it, but we didn’t arrest them. We cooperate everyday so I don’t understand why our soldiers are not released.”