Timing of mutiny charges interesting
I wish to applaud the current Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander for finally issuing revised charges against detained army officers. It is worth noting that these charges came at a time Lesotho was supposed to assume its position as chair of the Southern African Development Community ( SADC) Organ on Politics, Peace, Defence and Security. It is also worth noting that these charges are brought in a time that SADC has established a Commission of Inquiry regarding the mutiny, death of Lieutenant General Mahao, exiled opposition leaders and 30th August 2014 coup attempt. They are brought in when in actual fact the said mutineers should be preparing to give evidence in the Phumaphe Commission of Inquiry.
The alleged mutineers are charged as follows: “During or about the period of September 2014 to May 2015 and at or near Maseru, the accused did wrongfully, unlawfully, intentionally, and without lawful excuse, form a combination with one or more of each other and other members of the LDF as well as certain persons not subject to the (Lesotho Defence Act 1996) Act to overthrow or resist lawful authority in the LDF or to impede the performance of any duty or service on the LDF, by conspiring at first to arrest, detain and remove from service, certain officers of the LDF viz Brigadier Mokaloba, Lt Col Phaila, Lt Col Lekhooa, Major Ntoi, Major Sechele, Capt Hashatsi, 2Lt Nyakane and 2Lt Thabisi and later kill such officers. Such officers were perceived as being supportive of Lt General Kamoli, who had not stood down as Commander of the LDF after the then Brigadier Mahao had been gazetted as Commander on 29th August 2014.”
The fact of the matter is that there was a mutiny in the Army between 29th August 2014 and 22nd May 2015. The moot question is towards whose command was the mutiny against? The Charge Sheet reads: “Such officers were perceived as being supportive of Lt General Tlali Kamoli, who had not stood down as Commander of the LDF after the then Brigadier Mahao had been gazetted as Commander on 29th August 2014”. The Charge Sheet in actual fact does take cognizant of the fact that a legal instrument of a gazette was passed appointing Brigadier Mahao to the rank of Lt General and thus the Commander of the armed forces on the 29th August 2014. It acknowledges the fact that Lt General Kamoli did not stand-down when Lt General Mahao assumed his position as Commander of the armed forces. Indeed, the Charge Sheet acknowledges that there were officers who were perceived to support a removed General, not the decision by His Majesty King Letsie III through the advice of the Right Honourable Prime Minister Thomas Thabane (as he was then) as enshrined in the Constitution and LDF Act of 1996. Earlier in 2014, the then Brigadier Mahao advised Major Hashatsi that he refrain from statements that should Lt General Kamoli be removed they will fight against such a decision. Mahao further advised Hashatsi to respect civilian authority in regard to the change of Command of the LDF. Mahao was court-martialled for that. On the 29th August 2014, the Prime Minister dismissed the Court Marshall. On the 29th August 2014, the Prime Minister advised the King to remove Lt General Kamoli as Commander of the armed forces with immediate effect. The King, through Government Legal Notice, did remove Lt General Kamoli on the said date.
On the 29th 2014 the Prime Minister advised the King to appoint Brigadier Mahao to the rank of Lt General, thus making him the Commander of the armed forces. The King, through Government Legal Notice, did appoint Brigadier Mahao to the rank of Lt General with immediate effect. The Lt General’s house was attacked in the early hours of 30th August 2014. The armed forces embarked on an exercise of raiding police stations, where Sub-inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko was killed. According to Major Ntoi this exercise was aimed at finding weapons that were going to be utilized by what is known as UTTA against an LCD March scheduled for 1 September 2014 but called-off by the police and army a week before it could take place.
On 31st August 2014, Lt General Mahao did admit on a local radio station that his house was attacked by elements of the army and he fled the scene. He did however instruct Major-general Motśomotśo to take charge of the command in his absence. Once he was back in the country he was under the custodian of SADC while General Kamoli was conducting business as usual. Between September 2014 and May 2015 the command of LDF was as follows:
Lt General Mahao — Commander of the Armed Forces, Major-general Motśomotśo, Major-general Lineo Popa, Brigadier Mareka, Brigadier Motoa, Brigadier Mokaloba, Brigadier Letsoela, Col Stemere, Col Kolisang, Col Ntsohi, Col Kaibe, Col ‘ Neli, Col Matobakele.
This was the lawful authority of the LDF between September 2014 to May 2015. A mutiny would be against that authority or command. The Charge Sheet stipulates that the alleged mutineers were trying to overthrow or resist lawful command in the LDF or to impede the performance of any duty or officers of the LDF viz Brigadier Mokaloba, Lt Pahiala, Lt Col. Lekhooa, Major Ntoi, Major Sechele, Captain Hashatsi, 2Lt Nyakane and 2Lt Hlehlisi and later kill such officers. Who are these officers?
As far back as February 2014, Major Lekhoaoa and Major Ntoi embarked on a trip to the SADC offices in Gaborone, Botswana, where they declared that they would not accept a change of command and that the Prime Minister had a vendetta against them due to their involvement in the 2007 security unrest. They were briefing the office of SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. They feared that the removal of Lt General Kamoli will leave them and those involved in the 2007 turmoil vulnerable.
In March 2014, the South African Department of Crime Scene Management commissioned Lt Colonel Van Der Merwe to submit a report on the Moshoeshoe II bombings to the division of forensic services in Pretoria. That report stipulated the types of weapons and bombs used in Moshoeshoe II and at Police Commissioner Tśooana’s residence. The exercise of determining the sequence of events and actual bombings and possible suspects was a joint exercise of the Lesotho Police, South African Police and Lesotho Defence Force.
The Commissioner of Police in Lesotho, Commissioner Tśooana, wrote to the Lesotho Defence Force Commissioner requesting the following officers in connection with the bombings of Moshoeshoe II and Commissioner of Police residence: Brigadier Mokaloba, Captain Hashatsi, Lt Col Lekhooa, Major Ntoi, 2nd Lt Nyakane, Lance Corporal Moleleki, Corporal Mokhesuoe and 2nd Lt Hlehlisi. These officers were however never handed over to the police for any questioning. Former Commissioner of Police Kizito Mhlakaza once wrote to the Lesotho Defence Commander requesting some officers in regard to Mafeteng killings. These officers were never handed over to the police for questioning, the current Commissioner of Police Commissioner Tśoaoana also tried to continue with the exercise of his predecessor but his exercise was futile.
Having looked at the background of the command and the people who are purportedly being perceived as supporters of Lt General Kamoli on the Charge Sheet, the real issue of who the mutiny was against between September 2014 and May 2015 has to be established. 1. Lt General Mahao was removed as Commander with effect from May 2015 through a Gazette. 2. Lt General Kamoli was appointed as Commander retrospectively from 29th August 2014 through a Gazette. 3. The effect of this is that the office of the Prime Minister had appointed two Commanders of the LDF during the period 29th August 2014 to 22 May 2015. 4. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister had in effect, confirmed Lt General Mahao during the said period. 5. There is no provision for two Commissioned Commanders so one of the Commanders was illegitimate at the period of 29th August 2014 to 22 May 2015. 6. There was no vacancy during that period as Prime Minister (then) Thabane had appointed Lt General Mahao. There was no need to retrospectively appoint anyone to a position that was not vacant. 7. The wrong people are accused of mutiny in this case. It must be established who did not take instructions from Lt General Mahao. Why were instructions from Lt General Mahao not taken? Whose instructions were then taken during the period of 29th August 2014 to 22 May 2015? 8. Was Mahao able to perform his duties as Commissioned? Why is Brigadier Mokaloba the only one singled out amongst the command of the LDF during the period 29th August 2014 to 22 May 2015? What operations and under whose instructions were Hlehlisi, Phaila, Lekhooa, Ntoi, Sechele, Hashatsi, Nyakane, involved in between 29th August 2014 to 22 May 2015 and prior to that period? You don’t need to be a Rocket Scientist to make your conclusions.