Ex­iled se­cu­rity chiefs cry foul

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

LE­SOTHO De­fence Force ( LDF) Com­man­der, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, and Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice ( LMPS) Com­mis­sioner Khothatso Tšooana have ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment at be­ing “de­prived” their right to vote in the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 gen­eral elec­tions.

Lt Gen Ma­hao and Com­mis­sioner Tšooana were sent to Su­dan and Al­ge­ria re­spec­tively for their leave of ab­sence in line with the Maseru Se­cu­rity Ac­cord (MSA) signed on 23 Oc­to­ber 2014.

How­ever, Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, who is also part of the MSA deal bro­kered by the South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity ( SADC) is yet to leave South Africa for his spe­cial leave in Su­dan, ar­gu­ing he would only do so if his salary— which gov­ern­ment has since with­drawn — is re­in­stated.

Un­der the MSA fa­cil­i­tated by South African Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, the three se­cu­rity bosses were re­quired to go to an African or Com­mon­wealth coun­try on spe­cial leave within 21 days of the sign­ing of the deal to al­low the restora­tion of peace be­tween the LMPS and LDF, whose tiff nearly plunged the coun­try into a civil war.

Ac­cord­ing to the poll timetable is­sued by the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC), ad­vance-vot­ing for em­bassy staff abroad, state se­cu­rity agents, med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers, jour­nal­ists and elec­tion ob­servers is sched­uled for Satur­day, 21 Fe­bru­ary.

How­ever, both Lt Gen Ma­hao and Com­mis­sioner Tšooana can­not vote at Le­sotho em­bassies be­cause they are not em­ployed at those con­sulates.

Speak­ing to the Le­sotho Times from South Su­dan this week, Lt Gen Ma­hao said he only agreed to leave the coun­try for the sake of peace, and was dis­ap­pointed that he was now be­ing pun­ished for it.

“I have been de­prived of my right to vote. Even if I wanted to vote I can­not do so from here,” Lt Gen Ma­hao said. “There is no ar­range­ment at all put in place for me to vote.”

He said upon his de­par­ture, the un­der­stand­ing was through SADC’S fa­cil­i­ta­tion, ten­sion be­tween the LDF and LMPS as well as the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity would have been re­solved be­fore the elec­tions.

“Ar­ti­cle 10 in the MSA was not spe­cific about how long the leave of ab­sence was go­ing to be, and only men­tioned a ‘spec­i­fied pe­riod’ be­cause we were not go­ing to be ab­sent for the same amount of time,” said Lt Gen Ma­hao, who took over as LDF com­man­der from Lt Gen Kamoli in Au­gust last year, although the lat­ter has main­tained he is still the army chief.“com­ing home af­ter the elec­tions was not part of the agree­ment and it is re­ally frus­trat­ing to be re­fused my right.”

Echo­ing the same sen­ti­ments, Com­mis­sioner Tšooana also said it was un­fair that there was no spe­cial ar­range­ment for him to vote from where he is be­cause sign­ing the MSA was not for his per­sonal ben­e­fit but the coun­try’s peace and sta­bil­ity.

The po­lice chief in­sisted he had not agreed to for­feit the right to vote by ac­cept­ing to go on the leave of ab­sence.“we were of the view that the IEC would make a spe­cial ar­range­ment for us to cast our votes,” Com­mis­sioner Tšooana said from Al­ge­ria.

“How­ever, noth­ing has been said to us about the is­sue and I think it’s very un­fair be­cause it is not by choice that we are away from home.”

Con­tacted for com­ment, IEC Act­ing Direc­tor of Elec­tions, ‘Ma­matlere Matete con­firmed Lt Gen Ma­hao, Lt Gen Kamoli and Com­mis­sioner Tšooana would not be able to cast their bal­lots ei­ther as ad­vance vot­ers or on elec­tion day.

Ac­cord­ing to Ms Matete, the Na­tional As­sem­bly Elec­toral Act of 2011 states only public of­fi­cers em­ployed by the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho abroad are el­i­gi­ble to vote.

“Lt Gen Ma­hao, Lt Gen Kamoli and Com­mis­sioner Tšooana are on leave of ab­sence and not em­ployed by the gov­ern­ment in the coun­tries they are cur­rently sta­tioned,” Ms Matete said.

“There was no spe­cial ar­range­ment made for them to vote since the elec­tions are con­ducted ac­cord­ing to the law.”

po­lice com­mis­sioner Khothatso Tšooana

lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao

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