Mo­lapo sticks to his guns

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

BA­SOTHO Na­tional Party (BNP) deputy leader, Joang Mo­lapo, has been in the eye of a storm over re­cent weeks af­ter his public an­nounce­ment that some Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) mem­bers on a “hit mission” had been caught at a South African hos­pi­tal.

Ac­cord­ing to Chief Mo­lapo, who is also the Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs and Act­ing Com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter, the sol­diers were caught be­fore they could “fin­ish off” Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane’s two body­guards ad­mit­ted at the un­named Bloem­fontein hos­pi­tal.

The body­guards, who are also sol­diers but have since been disowned by the army as de­sert­ers, had been in­jured dur­ing a shootout with LDF mem­bers near the Royal Palace on 1 Fe­bru­ary.

A pri­vate se­cu­rity guard died in the shoot­ing af­ter be­ing caught in cross­fire while on duty at a nearby gov­ern­ment build­ing.

How­ever, de­spite South Africa’s In­de­pen­dent News­pa­pers con­firm­ing with the coun­try’s po­lice that no such ar­rests were ever made in Bloem­fontein as claimed by Chief Mo­lapo, the min­is­ter is stick­ing to his guns.

Chief Mo­lapo speaks with Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter Billy Ntaote on this and other is­sues in this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view.

LT: Your state­ment that four LDF mem­bers were caught in Bloem­fontein on a mission to as­sas­si­nate Ma­jor Mo­jalefa Mosak­eng and Cor­po­ral Ngoliso Ma­jara has not been sup­ported by any­one here in Le­sotho, as well as the South African au­thor­i­ties. Was this a de­lib­er­ate false­hood meant to serve a cer­tain agenda on your part?

Mo­lapo: This past Satur­day when we were in a meet­ing with SADC Fa­cil­i­ta­tor Cyril Ramaphosa, and in the com­pany of other peo­ple we can dis­cuss such is­sues with, I gave the South African Deputy Pres­i­dent the names of th­ese LDF mem­bers, their ranks and the name of the South African min­is­ter we have been in con­tact with about this case.

The prob­lem now is th­ese peo­ple (South Africans) think we can’t keep se­crets, which is why I can’t say any­thing about the case any­more.

LT: But how do you con­vince peo­ple who now be­lieve you were ly­ing to sup­port your party’s claims that the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho is not con­ducive for a free and fair gen­eral elec­tion on 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015?

The ABC (All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion), your party’s ally in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, has also been say­ing Mr Ramaphosa should ad­dress the is­sue of se­cu­rity be­fore the snap elec­tions, while the LCD (Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy — the other party in the coali­tion gov­ern­ment — has dis­missed th­ese con­cerns.

If you can­not present the ev­i­dence re­gard­ing th­ese ar­rested LDF mem­bers, how do you hope to earn the trust of the na­tion or should I say, why should peo­ple trust what you are go­ing to say next time?

Mo­lapo: My brother, let’s start by as­sess­ing where we are right now as a coun­try.

We are at a very del­i­cate stage in terms of restor­ing po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity to our coun­try.

On Satur­day, for the first time, Mr Ramaphosa out­lined the progress he has made on a strat­egy he has been em­ploy­ing to­wards re­solv­ing Le­sotho’s is­sues.

What is­sues we need to pull, which ones we have to push and which ones need to be left alone.

Now, it’s clear cer­tain things will worsen the sit­u­a­tion, cer­tain things we can deal with af­ter the elec­tions, while some can be dealt with be­fore the elec­tions.

So this one about the sol­diers’ fea­tures in all three, but the bot­tom line is, I never lied about LDF mem­bers be­ing ar­rested in Bloem­fontein.

How­ever, for us as gov­ern­ment, the im­por­tant is­sue right now is bring­ing the army un­der ef­fec­tive civil­ian con­trol.

Now those peo­ple we are talk­ing about are not the ring­leaders of the in­sub­or­di­na­tion we see in the army.

LT: In sim­ple terms, what are you say­ing?

Mo­lapo: What I mean is the sol­diers who were ar­rested in South Africa are not the ring­leaders of the prob­lems in the LDF. The ring­leaders are here and th­ese are the peo­ple we have to deal with; who are in su­per­vi­sory po­si­tions in the army.

LT: The ABC and BNP have been talk­ing about the “se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion” in the coun­try. What ex­actly are th­ese se­cu­rity is­sues?

Mo­lapo: On Satur­day, once again, we showed Deputy Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa the let­ter the army wrote to us as gov­ern­ment. We said to him let’s be frank and talk about the let­ter by the LDF.

We asked what his gov­ern­ment would do or say if they were to get such a let­ter from the South African Na­tional De­fence Force.

We dis­cussed the con­tents of the let­ter. Look­ing at the first line of the let­ter, you will find that it says: From the com­man­der of the army to the prime min­is­ter.

It doesn’t say to prime min­is­ter and then from the com­man­der of the army. When they com­mu­ni­cate with us as a gov­ern­ment, they don’t even ob­serve pro­to­col. But let’s leave that part and go straight to the con­tents of the let­ter.

LT: What does the let­ter say?

Mo­lapo: The sol­diers tell us that they are go­ing to start coun­try­wide pa­trols.

They tell us! Mind you, the prime min­is­ter is the com­man­der-in-chief of the LDF and he is the one who has the fi­nal say over the de­ploy­ment of the army, but they tell us!

Then we re­sponded say­ing what they are do­ing is non­sense and they should stop it.

Then in­deed stopped. How­ever, what’s worth not­ing is that as their let­ter had reached us at about 4:15 pm, our re­sponse was ready by 5:15pm and we de­liv­ered it straight away.

How­ever, a very young sol­dier had the temer­ity to tell us upon ar­rival at the LDF gates that the let­ter could only be de­liv­ered to the com­man­der on Mon­day, as had al­ready knocked off.

Then we told him that the per­son the let­ter had been ad­dressed to, if we were to call him to our of­fices at 3am, he was sup­posed to be there.

It was shock­ing that even af­ter be­ing told that the let­ter was from the prime min­is­ter, the sol­dier still had the guts to tell us he could only hand it over two days later.

So we are say­ing the con­tents of the let­ter it­self shows th­ese peo­ple (sol­diers) are now dis­obe­di­ent and think they are a sep­a­rate author­ity in this coun­try.

So we told Mr Ramaphosa that there was noth­ing to talk about un­less there was a guar­an­tee that th­ese peo­ple were in the bar­racks on the day of the elec­tions. We said we are not go­ing to talk about it or mas­sage this is­sue; we told Mr Ramaphosa that th­ese peo­ple should go to the bar­racks and in­deed they were told so.

We are say­ing th­ese peo­ple’s in­sub­or­di­na­tion has crossed the line.

What’s wor­ry­ing is that we have a prob­lem of Bo Mo­sisili (for­mer Prime Min­is­ter and Demo­cratic Congress leader Pakalitha Mo­sisili) and Mets­ing (Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and LCD leader Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing) who think they will con­trol the army.

We have seen this process play it­self be­fore, from 1983 to 1986. At some point in time, those who think they have the sup­port of the army, will find them­selves in trou­ble.

LT: So do you agree with Pro­fes­sor Kopano Makoa (of the Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Le­sotho) when he says Le­sotho has be­come a prae­to­rian state (where the mil­i­tary dom­i­nates core po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions and pro­cesses)?

Mo­lapo: Ex­actly. This is the prob­lem be­cause the Congress guys are so short-sighted due to their hunger for power.

They don’t see the dan­ger in the things they are do­ing. All we are say­ing is that maybe it is be­cause we were sit­ting on our fa­thers’ knees when th­ese things were hap­pen­ing and they used to tell us that the army was now un­ruly.

We now see the signs of the things that took place in 1986, and I re­mem­ber my fa­ther telling me in 1983, that he had just been to a cabi­net meet­ing where the sol­diers had made a re­quest that they should be made the na­tional team of Le­sotho and other teams would just fill in the gaps just to con­ceal that they are the ac­tual na­tional soc­cer team.

He said this was the be­gin­ning of the end. And I as­sure you we need to rein-in the army now.

So our de­mand that the LDF Spe­cial Forces should be dis­banded and that those high-rank­ing army of­fi­cials and oth­ers should be brought un­der con­trol, are things we are in­sist­ing on.

That is why we are go­ing to the Dou­ble Troika meet­ing in Pre­to­ria, South Africa, this com­ing Fri­day to dis­cuss the coun­try’s sit­u­a­tion.

LT: Cer­tain quar­ters say you are ex­ag­ger­at­ing the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion to avoid elec­tions be­cause you are afraid you won’t make it…

Mo­lapo: Peo­ple think we are run­ning away from elec­tions. But let’s be hon­est; we, as the BNP, are now much stronger than we have ever been over the last 20 years, so why should we be afraid of this elec­tion?

Some peo­ple also think ABC sup­port­ers and their lead­ers are stupid po­lit­i­cally.

How­ever, the ABC is aware that their sup­port­ers have in­creased. They have al­ways been us­ing the mob and they see that the mob has in­creased ex­po­nen­tially.

They had so many con­stituen­cies us­ing the mob strat­egy and what more now?

Why would we be scared of elec­tions when the peo­ple who are join­ing our par­ties are leav­ing the Congress par­ties?

We are at­tract­ing peo­ple from the Demo­cratic Congress and the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy.

At our rally in Tsikoane last week­end, you could see that our sup­port­ers had de­fected from the Congress par­ties through their dance and you tell us we are afraid of go­ing for elec­tions!

LT: So who are you say­ing is afraid of the elec­tions?

Mo­lapo: Above and be­yond the fact that the BNP and ABC are also con­test­ing, we are go­ing to the elec­tions with a re­spon­si­bil­ity as gov­ern­ment, to guar­an­tee that the vote is free and fair and rep­re­sents the will of the peo­ple of Le­sotho.

When sol­diers are point­ing their guns at us in­side of our work­places and say they want to mount road­blocks and de­ter­mine who can go where, this can’t be al­lowed.

The army can­not gen­uinely say with the man­ner in which they treated us over the past year that we can gen­uine be­lieve they can be trusted to be ref­er­ees of Le­sotho’s af­fairs.

They nom­i­nated them­selves ref­er­ees. No, they don’t have cred­i­bil­ity es­pe­cially be­cause yes­ter­day they were chas­ing us in the night and they can­not be fair.

It is ridicu­lous to think that we would al­low the army to be seen any­where in public dur­ing this cru­cial time.

LT: We have learned that the Army Po­lice Joint Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre was amongst is­sues raised in the meet­ing with the SADC fa­cil­i­ta­tor. What ex­actly was dis­cussed?

Mo­lapo: We have said as gov­ern­ment, and the po­lice agree with us, that there can be no peace in Le­sotho with­out jus­tice.

Yes; the po­lice can make a joint op­er­a­tions with the army, it is not a prob­lem for long as the sol­diers in the Joint Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre are not the sol­diers who were in­volved in the bru­tal shoot­ing at po­lice head­quar­ters (on 30 Au­gust 2014) and at­tacks at other po­lice sta­tions across Maseru on the same morn­ing.

The po­lice have said they don’t have a prob­lem be­ing in the Joint Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre with LDF mem­bers for as long as they are not the sol­diers the po­lice have opened crim­i­nal dock­ets against.

Now the prob­lem with this re­la­tion­ship or what Mr Ramaphosa was try­ing to do is that it is now be­ing used as a shield for peo­ple who are crim­i­nals.

Sol­diers who want to es­cape pun­ish­ment are abus­ing this ini­tia­tive by Mr Ramaphosa.

How­ever, clean sol­diers with­out is­sues can be in the Joint Op­er­a­tions Com­mand and if there is an op­er­a­tion led by such sol­diers it would be fine and not those with crim­i­nal dock­ets.

BNP deputy leader Joang Mo­lapo

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