EX­ILED ABC MEMBERMEMB CRIES FOUL

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Bongiwe Zih­langu

Deputy prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing has told the SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry led by Botswana High Court judge, Jus­tice Mpa­phi phumaphi, that he felt un­com­fort­able with the de­ci­sion to court-mar­tial for­mer Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) com­man­der Maa­parankoe Ma­hao.

Mr Mets­ing said although he was told the court was a mil­i­tary mat­ter, it still both­ered him.

“the com­man­der of the LDF, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral tlali Kamoli, in­formed us that a court mar­tial against Bri­gadier Ma­hao had been es­tab­lished,” Mr Mets­ing said.

“He did not say ex­actly why the court mar­tial had been set-up, only that Bri­gadier Ma­hao should ap­pear be­fore it for some in­ves­ti­ga­tions. that dis­turbed me a lot.

“I wanted to know how a huge thing such as a court mar­tial could be in­sti­tuted. I was com­pelled to ask what it meant and told it was just a mat­ter of dis­ci­pline in the army and that such is­sues were ad­dressed by a court mar­tial. then I un­der­stood.”

Mr Mets­ing — who was tes­ti­fy­ing on Mon­day and tues­day this week be­fore the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (Sadc)-en­dorsed probe into the mur­der of Bri­gadier Ma­hao by the mil­i­tary on 25 June this year in Mokema as he al­legedly re­sisted ar­rest for sus­pected mutiny — said Lt Gen Kamoli re­ported the es­tab­lish­ment of the court mar­tial to him be­cause at the time, he was chair­per­son of the Cab­i­net Se­cu­rity Sub-com­mit­tee.

At the same time, Mr Mets­ing was then deputy prime min­is­ter (DPM) of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment formed by his Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy, All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion led by then prime min­is­ter thomas tha­bane, and Chief the­sele ‘Maserib­ane’s Ba­sotho Na­tional party (BNP).

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mets­ing, Dr tha­bane, who was prime min­is­ter at the time, ini­tially in­formed him about the court mar­tial, prompt­ing him to seek an ex­pla­na­tion from Lt Gen Kamoli.

It has since been re­vealed that the court mar­tial against Bri­gadier Ma­hao was es­tab­lished fol­low­ing his ar­gu­ment with Cap­tain tefo Hashatsi (who is now Lieu­tenant Colonel) in Jan­uary last year, who had al­legedly in­formed about 30 of his col­leagues that he had heard of plans to re­move Lt Gen Kamoli from the LDF com­mand.

Cap­tain Hashatsi had al­legedly gone on to say the com­man­der would only be re­moved over his dead body, re­sult­ing in Bri­gadier Ma­hao rep­ri­mand­ing him.

Bri­gadier Ma­hao al­legedly told Cap­tain Hashatsi that all com­man­ders were ap­pointed by po­lit­i­cal author­i­ties and that if he was not happy about it, he should re­sign from the LDF.

But later the same day, on 13 Jan­uary, then LDF act­ing com­man­der, Ma­jor Gen­eral Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo, wrote Bri­gadier Ma­hao a let­ter of sus­pen­sion, with one of the rea­sons be­ing vi­o­lat­ing the LDF Act by in­tim­i­dat­ing a ju­nior of­fi­cer and “be­hav­ing in a man­ner un­be­com­ing of an of­fi­cer”.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Mr Mets­ing, af­ter the meet­ing with Lt Gen Kamoli, he later met with Dr tha­bane and Chief ‘Maserib­ane dur­ing which the then pm ex­pressed dis­plea­sure with the court mar­tial.

“the pm said he was not happy with the de­ci­sion to ini­ti­ate the court mar­tial against Bri­gadier Ma­hao. We then told him that since that de­ci­sion in­volved the LDF com­mand, it would be wise to en­gage him (Lt Gen Kamoli) with a view to find­ing a suit­able way of deal­ing with the mat­ter,” Mr Mets­ing said.

Mr Mets­ing fur­ther said af­ter “some days”, he heard that Dr tha­bane had dis­solved the court mar­tial.

“We asked him why he had dis­solved the court and in re­sponse, he said in his opin­ion, it was not nec­es­sary to have es­tab­lished it in the first place. We then sought le­gal ad­vice, which stated the pm did not have the right to have done that,” Mr Mets­ing said.

“We were told he could only make a deci- sion on the out­come of the case as the con­firm­ing au­thor­ity of sen­tences is­sued by such courts. We were told that there were dif­fer­ent kinds of cases, and that for some, only the com­man­der could es­tab­lish courts while the es­tab­lish­ment of oth­ers was only within the de­fence min­is­ter’s ju­ris­dic­tion.

“this meant for the court es­tab­lished by the com­man­der, the de­fence min­is­ter could only ac­cept or throw out the re­sul­tant sen­tence, hence the le­gal opin­ion that he re­in­states the court mar­tial, which he did.”

How­ever, Mr Mets­ing said af­ter the court mar­tial’s re­in­state­ment, Dr tha­bane was still not happy, and said he wanted to find ways to free Bri­gadier Ma­hao from the trial.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mets­ing, Dr tha­bane was of the opin­ion that Bri­gadier Ma­hao de­served to be LDF com­man­der more than Lt Gen Kamoli be­cause of his aca­demic cre­den­tials.

“At another meet­ing where the three of us met, Dr tha­bane told us he was still think­ing of a way he could free Ntate Ma­hao from the court mar­tial. He said it was be­cause he was of the view that Ntate Ma­hao was more de­serv­ing to be com­man­der than Ntate Kamoli,” Mr Mets­ing said.

“In a way, he was try­ing to say maybe even in the be­gin­ning, Kamoli should never have been ap­pointed LDF com­man­der. He was not di­rectly say­ing so; it was just by his con­duct. time and again, he would say of Ma­hao ‘this man is bet­ter qual­i­fied, he’s so good’.

“then we said to him we should ac­cept that the mil­i­tary had its pro­cesses and that we should al­low them to take their course, as long as they were le­gal. We also ad­vised him that when the trial ended, he could still make some de­ci­sions.

“But that didn’t take away the fact that Kamoli was the sub­stan­tive com­man­der and that we all agreed that he was the right­ful com­man­der of the LDF. Ntate tha­bane al­ways said Ma­hao was more ed­u­cated and had more ex­po­sure be­cause he worked with the African union (Au) and SADC, among oth­ers.

“then we sug­gested that if he felt that Ma­hao’s cre­den­tials were im­pres­sive, he should con­sider ap­point­ing him his ad­vi­sor, work­ing with him at his of­fice. That was the end of the dis­cus­sion on that topic.”

the DPM added Dr tha­bane also had another favourite, the now-ex­iled Colonel Matela Ma­to­bakele, and would al­ways say he would be suit­able as Lt Gen Kamoli’s sec­ond-in-com­mand.

Colonel Ma­to­bakele went Ab­sent With­out Of­fi­cial Leave (AWOL) in Fe­bru­ary last year amid spec­u­la­tion he had fallen out with the com­mand af­ter al­legedly giv­ing Dr tha­bane the names of sol­diers sus­pected to have been in­volved in the Jan­uary 2014 bomb­ing of the res­i­dences of for­mer Com­mis­sioner of po­lice Khothatso tšooana and Li­a­biloe Ramo­holi, who is now Dr tha­bane’s wife.

“We raised con­cern that Ntate Ma­to­bakele had de­serted the mil­i­tary but Ntate tha­bane said he would speak to Ntate Kamoli about bring­ing him back into the mil­i­tary,” Mr Mets­ing said.

At this junc­ture, Jus­tice phumaphi asked Mr Mets­ing about his im­pres­sion con­cern­ing Cap­tain Hashatsi’s state­ment that Gen­eral Kamoli would only be re­moved over his dead body.

“Re­fer­ring to state­ment made by some­body called Hashatsi, that over his dead body would Kamoli be dis­missed, es­pe­cially at the in­sti­ga­tion of other sol­diers, what im­pres­sion did that give you?” the judge asked.

“the im­pres­sion that it gave me was that there must have been some talk around that is­sue, per­haps from one of the sol­diers that they wanted another com­man­der,” Mr Mets­ing re­sponded.

Jus­tice phumaphi: “And Hashatsi wanted Kamoli?”

Mr Mets­ing: “It was not a ques­tion of Hashatsi want­ing Kamoli be­cause he was al­ready com­man­der of the LDF.”

Jus­tice phumaphi: “But he was be­hind the com­man­der?”

Mr Mets­ing: “He was be­hind Kamoli, which was ob­vi­ously ac­cept­able that the army must be be­hind the com­man­der!”

Com­mis­sioner Gopolang Mogotsi also joined in the ques­tion­ing: “Don’t you think that Hashatsi’s state­ment was an in­di­ca­tor of di­vi­sions or dif­fer­ent think­ing in the army, which came to life when Ma­hao was ap­pointed com­man­der?”

Dr Tha­bane even­tu­ally fired Lt Gen Kamoli in Au­gust last year, re­plac­ing him with Bri­gadier Ma­hao, whom he el­e­vated to Lieu­tenant Gen­eral. How­ever, Lt Gen Kamoli re­fused to va­cate of­fice, and last week dur­ing his own cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, told the nine-mem­ber all-for­eign Com­mis­sion that he did not leave the post be­cause the dis­missal did not have “in­stru­ments to op­er­a­tionalise the ex­pul­sion” and that he had not “reached my com­pul­sory re­tire­ment age”.

Re­spond­ing to Com­mis­sioner Mogotsi’s ques­tion, Mr Mets­ing said: “I don’t agree with you be­cause he didn’t make him­self com­man­der. If he had gone and pro­nounced him­self a rene­gade com­man­der, I would say there were di­vi­sions. But he did not ap­point him­self. Some­body ap­pointed him.”

Com­mis­sioner Mogotsi: “Fol­low­ing the ap­point­ment of Ma­hao, Kamoli re­fused to va­cate of­fice. Those who were ex­cited about the prospects of a new com­man­der were frus­trated. those who think like Hashatsi be­came de­fen­sive to the com­man­der.”

Mr Mets­ing: “Don’t say di­vi­sions in the mil­i­tary. Maybe you don’t have to re­fer to di­vi­sions within the army, but di­vi­sions within gov­ern­ment. you had bet­ter look at it that way. I am the one who openly said Kamoli had not been re­moved from the army. We asked SADC to in­ter­vene and a set­tle­ment was reached.”

Com­mis­sioner Mogotsi: “you haven’t said any­thing about the al­leged mutiny through­out your tes­ti­mony. Is it by choice or be­cause it is be­fore the court mar­tial? Or is it be­cause you don’t know any­thing about it?”

Mr Mets­ing: “Like you have pointed out, I’m part of gov­ern­ment and we have re­ceived re­ports. But I pointed out that I am not go­ing to ad­dress this mat­ter here.”

Com­mis­sioner Mogotsi: “With due re­spect Sir, may I ask why you don’t want to deal with this is­sue?”

Mr Mets­ing: “And with due re­spect Com­mis­sioner, can I not re­spond to that? May I not deal with it as I re­quested not to?”

Mean­while, Lieu­tenant Colonel Hashatsi is to­day ex­pected to ap­pear be­fore the Com­mis­sion whose es­tab­lish­ment fol­lowed a pro­posal by gov­ern­ment shaken by the death of Bri­gadier Ma­hao. SADC then en­dorsed the pro­posal at its spe­cial sum­mit in pre­to­ria, South Africa, on 3 July, and gave it spe­cific terms of ref­er­ence, among them es­tab­lish­ing the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing Bri­gadier Ma­hao’s death.

In ad­di­tion to Jus­tice phumaphi, the Com­mis­sion also com­prises eight other le­gal and se­cu­rity ex­perts from SADC mem­ber-states.

The com­man­der of the LDF, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tlali Kamoli, in­formed us that a court mar­tial against Bri­gadier Ma­hao had been es­tab­lished. He did not say ex­actly why the court mar­tial had been set-up, only that Bri­gadier Ma­hao should ap­pear be­fore it for some in­ves­ti­ga­tions. That dis­turbed me a lot. I wanted to know how a huge thing such as a court mar­tial could be in­sti­tuted. I was com­pelled to ask what it meant and told it was just a mat­ter of dis­ci­pline in the army and that such is­sues were ad­dressed by a court mar­tial. Then I un­der­stood.

Deputy prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing tes­ti­fy­ing on Mon­day.

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