Tim­ing of mutiny charges in­ter­est­ing

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis -

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.

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