‘Maserib­ane re­counts ‘coup’ or­deal

Lesotho Times - - News - Bongiwe Zih­langu Keiso Mohloboli

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

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