Why Ma­hao fam­ily de­nied govt ac­cess

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ma­hao Ma­hao

THE de­ci­sion not to al­low gov­ern­ment and the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) at Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao’s fu­neral was al­most spon­ta­neous. It was a hum­ble re­minder that once again the fam­ily stands firm that Maa­parankoe was Lieu­tenant Gen­eral and not any­thing be­low.

The fam­ily meet­ing that made the de­ci­sion to bar gov­ern­ment and its or­gans was sim­ply a for­mal­ity. In­di­vid­u­ally — and with­out any ex­ter­nal in­flu­ence ex­cept the build-up events and cir­cum­stances in which the Gen­eral was as­sas­si­nated — each one had al­ready de­cided this seven-headed gov­ern­ment and its army would not be al­lowed any­where near him.

Even if they had of­fered to spend $10 mil­lion on his fu­neral, they would not have been given ac­cess. Per­haps the gov­ern­ment and their mil­i­tary thought money is more im­por­tant than val­ues, prin­ci­ples and in­tegrity. The fam­ily is clear that no amount of cash can re­place these virtues. Ours is not a fam­ily full of bil­lion­aires, but we do not sell our souls for a bowl of soup.

It is in­trigu­ing what kind of speeches this gov­ern­ment and its army would have made at Maa­parankoe’s burial: why would they want to hon­our him in death yet they could not do so while he lived? Their speeches would have been noth­ing short of grand hypocrisy, in­sin­cer­ity and cyn­i­cism at its best.

Worst of all is that up to now, the gov­ern­ment has not shown any lead­er­ship by im­me­di­ately or­der­ing the ar­rest of the mur­der­ers even though they are known. For them it is busi­ness as usual. When gov­ern­ment re­mains silent, we are bound to draw our own con­clu­sions. Ei­ther they fear to an­tag­o­nise some­one they hold dear to their hearts or they could be suf­fo­cat­ing un­der a heavy load of guilt con­science.

The last time gov­ern­ment spoke with some in­ten­sity was be­fore the fam­ily press con­fer­ence where the na­tion was told how the Gen­eral was mur­dered. Since then, all the spin doc­tors and their mas­ters have re­treated be­cause they knew they were ly­ing to the na­tion.

What re­mains is their de­fi­ant ar­ro­gance. Some in this gov­ern­ment have gone a step fur­ther to pre-empt the (un­nec­es­sary) com­mis­sion es­tab­lished to probe Maa­parankoe’s death as they claim that the killing will not re­sult in any pros­e­cutable cases; yet another ob­vi­ous in­sult to his griev­ing fam­ily.

As the let­ter ad­dressed to the Gov­ern­ment Sec­re­tary ( and copied to Robert Mu­gabe, Ja­cob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa) clearly stated, the pres­ence of the gov­ern­ment and its mil­i­tary at the fu­neral would have been most “in­ap­pro­pri­ate and would likely fur­ther trau­ma­tise and open anew our hurt.” This in a con­text where the cold-blood mur­ders of In­spec­tor Ramahloko and Thabiso Tšosane still re­main fresh.

Let us not for­get that the LDF ad­mit­ted in court the Fri­day af­ter the well-planned and or­ches­trated as­sas­si­na­tion that they had killed Maa­parankoe. Any right-think­ing per­son would have to ask how they would kill him and then pa­rade with pomp, flutes and drums at his fu­neral.

It would have been a se­ri­ous mock­ery for both gov­ern­ment and the army to be al­lowed cen­tre stage at the oc­ca­sion. As far as the fam­ily is con­cerned, gov­ern­ment and the army are prime sus­pects in Maa­parankoe’s death and there was no way sus­pects could have been al­lowed to win­dow-dress the oc­ca­sion.

We do not use the term ‘ sus­pects’ due to short­age of vo­cab­u­lary. Another more ap­pro­pri­ate term will be un­veiled as the events un­fold. Many se­ri­ous bat­tles (hope­fully to be fought with­out the use of tax-pay­ers’ guns and bul­lets) still lie ahead. Maa­parankoe’s demise does not sig­nal the end but on the con­trary it sig­nals the be­gin­ning.

In fact, this seven-headed gov­ern­ment should be thank­ful to Maa­parankoe’s fam­ily for sav­ing them from an em­bar­rass­ing sit­u­a­tion. Of the mul­ti­tudes who thronged Mokema on Satur­day 11th July, very few would have been in­ter­ested in gov­ern­ment and army speeches. All of their speak­ers would have prob­a­bly been booed off the stage. Their pres­ence would have soured the oc­ca­sion and less­ened the dig­nity of this great man’s last mo­ments with us who re­ally loved him.

The fam­ily, friends and all right-think­ing cit­i­zens would cer­tainly not want that. It would have been un­ac­cept­able to al­low those who — in front of in­ter­na­tional tele­vi­sion cam­eras — claimed to be “dev­as­tated” by Maa­parankoe’s death yet the fam­ily and many other Ba­sotho do not be­lieve they re­ally were. One of them was even smil­ing as he talked of ‘dev­as­ta­tion’. Per­haps I need to re-check ex­actly what this word means.

This is a gov­ern­ment that does not even have the guts to crit­i­cize and rein in its army for atroc­i­ties, im­punity and bla­tant abuse of hu­man rights and dig­nity, and dis­re­spect­fully barg­ing into courts of law bran­dish­ing ma­chine guns. Yes, in our coun­try jus­tice is pinned down by those with pow­er­ful mus­cles and raped again and again al­most at will.

Why should we be sur­prised when some in this gov­ern­ment strangely claimed that the army is in­de­pen­dent and au­ton­o­mous? We thought the very next day this gov­ern­ment would of­fi­cially an­nounce the army had been pri­va­tized and that the port­fo­lio of De­fence min­is­ter had ceased to ex­ist.

Even Maa­parankoe’s sec­ond son, who is just twelve, wouldn’t have al­lowed gov­ern­ment and its or­gans to be present at his dad’s fu­neral. On the Thurs­day of the week his fa­ther was laid to rest, he told me their bi­cy­cles had bro­ken down be­yond re­pair and that his dad had promised them new bikes “be­fore all this hap­pened” as he put it.

I could see tears welling up in his eyes till I de­cided to change the sub­ject to his school and how it was there. I was sin­cerely touched and his words zoomed my re­flec­tion on those re­spon­si­ble for his dad’s killing. I hope when the time comes for them to face their fate the same way Maa­parankoe bravely faced his, they will not run and hide and cry that they still have young kids to care for.

Maa­parankoe never had the op­por­tu­nity to plead for his life for the sake of his young chil­dren. He was cru­elly taken out of a game he was no longer even keen to con­tinue play­ing. No one gave a thought about his wife, three sons and the rest of the fam­ily.

Let us re­mem­ber that some of the peo­ple in this gov­ern­ment never duly rec­og­nized Maa­parankoe as the right­ful com­man­der of the army de­spite the King hav­ing law­fully gazetted the ap­point­ment dur­ing Tom Tha­bane’s premier­ship. Ev­ery­one else ex­cept these peo­ple ac­knowl­edged how tal­ented, skilled, prin­ci­pled and in­cor­rupt­ible Maa­parankoe was.

We are not show­er­ing these praises purely be­cause we are his fam­ily, but those who rec­og­nized tal­ent and great lead­er­ship when they saw it knew Le­sotho pos­sessed an ex­tra­or­di­nary soldier; prob­a­bly a once-in-a-life­time gem that was de­ter­mined to trans­form the LDF into a pro­fes­sional body.

This was one of the main rea­sons he joined the army de­spite reser­va­tions from some in his im­me­di­ate fam­ily. From far be­yond the borders of Le­sotho, he has been hailed as hum­ble, dig­ni­fied and highly in­tel­li­gent among many other qual­i­ties. Only his gov­ern­ment (with its eyes wide open) did not see these ex­cep­tional at­tributes.

Those who de­nied Maa­parankoe right­ful com­mand of the army should pro­vide valid rea­sons why they did so. But even if they keep silent it is glar­ing what the main agenda was. It is sad as some of his col­leagues who loved and re­spected him had hoped to give him a proper send-off, but the law that gov­erns the prin­ci­ple of col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity meant they would not be al­lowed.

Gov­ern­ment has clearly treated Maa­parankoe like an out­cast or a leper who all should have kept their dis­tance from. Even his back­dated re­moval from his po­si­tion was meant to hu­mil­i­ate him and send a mes­sage that those who had ap­pointed him (in­clu­sive of the King) were wrong.

This they did while they con­tin­ued to wine and dine with those who point guns at the Ba­sotho na­tion in­stead of the ex­ter­nal en­e­mies of this coun­try. Dur­ing the ri­ots of 1998, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials whose prop­er­ties were dam­aged re­ceived com­pen­sa­tion. Maa­parankoe’s prop­erty was dam­aged dur­ing an at­tack by el­e­ments of the army at his house on the 30th Au­gust 2014. Where is his com­pen­sa­tion? Of course ac­cord­ing to lead­ing fig­ures in this gov­ern­ment, noth­ing hap­pened on that fate­ful day.

When the fam­ily firmly put its foot down that the state shall play no role, the gov­ern­ment spin doc­tors con­tracted Se­vere Ver­bal Di­ar­rhoea (SVD) and claimed that the fam­ily would re­gret (what­ever ‘re­gret’ means) pre­vent­ing the gov­ern­ment from giv­ing the Gen­eral an of­fi­cial fu­neral. Once again, the state­ments that came out bore no re­morse for what has hap­pened to Maa­parankoe but were in­tended to fur­ther add salt and hot spices to the gap­ing wounds the fam­ily has suf­fered since this abom­inable act.

To put the record straight, the fam­ily does not re­gret a thing. Even 200 years into the un­known fu­ture, the de­ci­sion would still be sim­i­lar. And the same peo­ple who had treated this gallant soldier like garbage sud­denly wanted to hon­our him at his fu­neral and bask in the glory and at­ten­tion they did not de­serve? The over­ar­ch­ing con­clu­sion is that the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment sim­ply had no valid case to have played a role at Lt. Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao’s fu­neral, full stop.

writer is a lec­turer in the Fac­ulty of Ed­u­ca­tion at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho and this ar­ti­cle rep­re­sents the views of the en­tire fam­ily of Lt. Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao

REP­RE­SEN­TA­TIVES of the fam­ily of the late for­mer LDF Com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao ad­dress the media on 30 June 2015.

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