‘Maseribane recounts ‘coup’ ordeal
Government’s decision to snub the SADC inquiry currently underway in south Africa could have serious consequences for Lesotho, analysts have warned.
Lawyers representing state organs before the commission have decided not to be part of the proceedings, arguing the probe was only mandated to operate in Lesotho.
the commission, chaired by Botswana judge Justice mpaphi Phumaphi, was established to investigate the murder of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, maapankoe mahao, on 25 June this year.
Lieutenant-general mahao was killed by fellow soldiers in mokema, with government alleging he was resisting arrest for his part in a foiled LDF mutiny when he met his death.
After hearing several testimonies at the state Library in maseru beginning 31 August, the commission moved to thaba ‘nchu on thursday last week to interview Basotho who fled Lesotho for South Africa fearing for their lives. the exiles asked the commissioners to interview them in south Africa, saying they did not feel safe to do so in Lesotho.
However, government lawyers refused to be present at the south African hearings, insisting they are illegal because the 10-member commission was established by Lesotho law.
King’s Counsel (KC) salemane Phafane, a member of government’s legal team, last week said the decision not to attend the hearings in south Africa was because the inquiry cannot operate outside Lesotho.
He added: “the minute they start operating outside Lesotho under whose laws the inquiry was born, they are no longer commissioners but just ordinary people.
“remember, they were sworn-in here in Lesotho. For instance, Justice Phumaphi is a Botswana judge under that country’s laws, hence his swearing-in here before he could begin his work.
“this basically means the commissioners don’t have the powers to swear-in people in south Africa and those oaths are not valid if done outside Lesotho.
“this Commission of Inquiry was established under the Public Inquiries Act of 1994, which does not provide for extraterritorial application. It was not established by SADC as many would want it to appear.
“that is why we will strongly contest the admissibility of any evidence given to the commission outside Lesotho’s jurisdiction. As far as we are concerned, the evidence should be considered inadmissible and not even make the commission’s final report.”
But analysts who spoke to the Lesotho times this week described the snub as “a desperate bid to avoid logical conclusions that the commission might arrive at”.
the commentators added because of SADC’S emphasis on accountability and cooperation, government should expect some backlash from the regional bloc.
Professor mafa sejaname of the national University of Lesotho (nul)’s Political and Administrative studies department, on monday told the Lesotho Times: “Government’s Basotho national Party (BNP) leader thesele ‘maseribane told the SADC Commission of Inquiry he had to hide in a tree to elude soldiers looking for him on the fateful morning of 30 August 2014.
Chief ‘maseribane was giving his testimony before the commission on tuesday in thaba ‘nchu, south Africa where he also accused Deputy Prime minister mothetjoa metsing and LDF Commander Lieutenant General tlali Kamoli of forming an alliance to undermine former premier thomas thabane.
the BNP leader said Dr thabane’s fall out with Lt Gen Kamoli was precipitated by the latter’s connivance with mr metsing and Lesotho mounted Police service (Lmps) Acting Commissioner Keketso monaheng not to follow the former premier’s instructions. Chief ‘maseribane said the trio would mock him and Dr Thabane as “small boys” for not undergoing traditional initiation.
“metsing, Kamoli and monaheng used to mock ntate thabane and I by saying we were not men enough because we never attended the cultural initiation school,” he said.
“I believe they used that as an ex- decision not to participate in the commission’s proceedings in south Africa is indicative of people who don’t want to cooperate. But this could have very serious implications on Lesotho.
“remember this is a commission of inquiry, not a court. It is therefore at liberty to find evidence wherever it sees fit. This is just a desperate bid by government to dispute evidence given in south Africa.
“Another issue of utmost importance is this is not a commission of the government of Lesotho but SADC.”
According to Prof sejanamane, by distancing itself from the south African proceedings, government was reneging on its promise to support the probe.
“It’s a broader issue of non-compliance with international laws because Lesotho is a member of SADC bound by the regional body’s de- cuse to disrespect us and not take the orders of Dr Thabane.”
over time, Chief ‘maseribane said, he and the former premier became aware that mr metsing was no longer loyal to the tripartite coalition.
“ntate thabane realised that there was a close relationship between metsing and Kamoli and both of them no longer complied with the former premier’s instructions,” he said.
“on 26 August 2014, ntate thabane summoned me to his office and, upon my arrival, instructed me to call Kamoli over for a meeting. I was hesitant to call Kamoli and when ntate thabane realised that, he asked me to ask other people to call him since he wanted the meeting to be held as soon as possible.”
During the meeting, Chief ‘maseribane said Dr thabane expressed his concerns about Lt Gen Kamoli’s relationship with mr metsing.
“ntate thabane told Kamoli he was getting to the point of giving up on him due to his errant behaviour. He said Kamoli was not ensuring the army was supporting the government of the day as it was supposed to,” he said.
“ntate thabane told Kamoli in my presence that he was going to cisions,” Prof Sejanamane said.
“If the commission feels the need to seek evidence in south Africa, it should be at liberty to do just that. this is just a question of government trying not to honour its international obligation and SADC won’t accept that.”
Prof sejanamane added: “Government is the one that gets the backlash if they do anything contrary to SADC expectations. SADC has put a lot of emphasis on accountability and strongly urged Lesotho to cooperate.”
Lesotho Council of non-governmental organisations (LCN director, seabata motsamai, also believes government should not have snubbed the hearings in thaba ‘nchu.
“Government should know the strength of the commission, which is political, rests solely on the shoulders of SADC,” Mr Motsamai told the Lesotho Times.
“this is just an attempt to frustrate Phu- relieve him of his duties as army commander with the letter of dismissal to be delivered to him.”
the BNP leader said he was dispatched by Dr thabane to deliver Lt Gen Kamoli’s letter of dismissal to then SADC organ on Politics, Defence and security Corporation chair, sa President Jacob Zuma, and SADC executive secretary stergomena Lawrence tax in Botswana.
“Without going into much detail, the letters were informing mr Zuma and SADC about the former premier’s decision to dismiss Lt Gen Kamoli from office,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.
“on the 28 August 2015, I was on my way to Botswana when I received a call from Lt Gen Kamoli through the mobile phone of one of my bodyguards. He asked me about my whereabouts and my bodyguard claimed that we were in Bloemfontein yet we were going to Botswana.”
the BNP leader said upon his return, he was warned of impending danger.
“Following that call, my bodyguards advised me not to sleep at my government house in maseru West even though they didn’t tell me the reasons why,” he said.
“I didn’t comply with their warnings and went home. Upon my arrival, I called ntate thabane to update him on my trip and failed because his mobile phone was not going through.
“I then switched off my phones because I was tired and wanted to rest without being disturbed. my wife’s phone rang, and upon answering, she started screaming and crying. my wife then threw the phone to me and told me to talk to the person on the line.
“When I answered, the person on the other line told me to quickly vacate my house because something dangerous had been planned for me. I did not run away but managed to ensure my wife and children escaped.
“I went outside and it was very cold since I was not wearing anything to warm myself because everything was happening so fast. the guards at the gate then assisted me in climbing a tree as a hiding place.
“soon after that, a Land rover vehicle arrived and I could see it from my hiding spot in the tree. one of the vehicle’s occupants inquired about my whereabouts and the guards, who were also soldiers, told him I had left the place. He then went into the house and I assumed he was searching for me, before driving off.
“the guards asked the security guards for my neighbour to let me in, but they refused. they then assisted me to reach the sa High Commissioner’s place where I stayed until 8 am before fleeing to south Africa. While I was still at the sa High Commissioner’s place, a police officer came to inform them that sub-inspector mokheseng ramahloko was killed during the attack at Police Headquarters.
“I left Lesotho and stayed in south Africa at one of the military bases where later that day Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao joined me.”
Chief ‘maseribane broke down in tears and told the commission that he never thought the security situation would deteriorate to the extent that he would flee his country again.
He said it was not a good feeling to be away from responsibilities as he is the Chief of mount moorosi in Quthing, a leader of a political party and a family man.
“We did not plan to run away from our families and clearly did not budget for renting houses here while we have houses in Lesotho,” he said.
Professor Mafa sejaname