Mokaloba de­nies army di­vided over Kamoli

Lesotho Times - - News - Keiso Mohloboli

Bri­gadier ra­manka Mokaloba on Mon­day de­nied claims that last year’s re­moval of Lieu­tenan­tgen­eral Tlali Kamoli as Le­sotho defence Force (LDF) com­man­der, and his re­place­ment by Lt-gen Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, cre­ated di­vi­sions within the mil­i­tary.

Brig Mokaloba, who was tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore the Sadc Com­mis­sion of in­quiry at State Li­brary in Maseru, fur­ther said Lt-gen Ma­hao was never his com­man­der and he would al­ways be loyal to Lt-gen Kamoli.

The Sadc in­quiry is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of Ltgen Ma­hao in June this year by sol­diers who had come to ar­rest him for sus­pected mutiny. The 10-mem­ber probe team, led by Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana, is also prob­ing the le­gal­ity of Lt-gen Kamoli’s sack­ing by then prime min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane on 29 au­gust 2014, and his im­me­di­ate re­place­ment by Lt-gen Ma­hao.

in ad­di­tion, the com­mis­sion is re­view­ing army in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the al­leged kid­nap­ping of former sol­diers and mur­der of op­po­si­tion party mem­bers by the LDF. The probe team is also look­ing into al­le­ga­tions made by op­po­si­tion par­ties and civic so­ci­ety that Lt-gen Kamoli’s re­in­state­ment in May this year at the ex­pense of Lt-gen Ma­hao, led to di­vi­sions in the mil­i­tary as well as po­lit­i­cal and se­cu­rity in­sta­bil­ity in Le­sotho.

“If we look at LDF of­fi­cers at the time, they were still in con­trol. about eight LDF mem­bers de­ployed at State House were called back to the bar­racks but did not com­ply. This means they com­mit­ted a crime, ac­cord­ing to mil­i­tary reg­u­la­tions, but this can­not be called di­vi­sions in the LDF.

“Some of the of­fi­cers, who could have been more than a pla­toon, obeyed the or­der and re­turned.

“The fact that there are dis­agree­ments in the army doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean there are di­vi­sions,” Brig Mokaloba said.

ac­cord­ing to Brig Mokaloba, if there were di­vi­sions in the army due to Lt-gen Kamoli’s re­moval, sol­diers could have eas­ily de­serted and taken LDF weapons with them.

“LDF mem­bers were given am­mu­ni­tion, law­fully, by their su­pe­ri­ors and there was no re­port that any of the sol­diers had de­serted with mil­i­tary weapons or ve­hi­cles. all the sol­diers were still abid­ing by or­ders given by the LDF com­man­der.

“if ever there were di­vi­sions in the army, the sol­diers could have de­serted with all the weapons they had been given in dif­fer­ent mil­i­tary bases coun­try­wide. and dur­ing all the dif­fer­ent mil­i­tary meet­ings held, of­fi­cers were at­tend­ing in op­er­a­tional uni­form and i never saw any soldier ab­scond­ing from duty.”

Brig Mokaloba fur­ther told the com­mis­sion that Lt-gen Kamoli was the only LDF com­man­der he knew and he would con­tinue sup­port­ing him. He also poked fun at Lt-gen Ma­hao for “tak­ing or­ders from a ra­dio pre­sen­ter” dur­ing a pro­gramme he said was spon­sored by ex­iled Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) leader Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane.

“Bri­gadier Ma­hao was heard com­mand­ing sol­diers through a ra­dio sta­tion and it was es­tab­lished by mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence that one politi­cian, BNP leader Chief Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane, spon­sored the pro­gramme. it was strange that songs played dur­ing the pro­gramme were po­lit­i­cal, yet the bri­gadier was an of­fi­cer of the LDF. That clearly in­di­cated he was be­ing mo­ti­vated by those po­lit­i­cal songs.

“al­though i might not be able to quote the ex­act words of the ra­dio pre­sen­ter, Puse­letso ramokhethi of Peo­ple’s Choice FM, she asked Bri­gadier Ma­hao to in­struct the sol­diers and he com­plied.

“He started shout­ing, say­ing ‘Motšo­motšo kea o laela e re ma­sole ao a khut­lise li­betsa a libehe libar­racks’ mean­ing ‘ Motšo­motšo, (LDF deputy com­man­der Ma­jor-gen­eral Khoan­tle Motšo­motšo) i am or­der­ing you to tell the sol­diers to bring back the weapons to the bar­racks.

“The pre­sen­ter again told Ma­hao to in­struct the sol­diers and he com­plied.

“i have been abroad and to sev­eral african coun­tries for mil­i­tary train­ing, and i never heard a com­man­der of the army be­ing in­structed by a ra­dio pre­sen­ter and that com­man­der com­ply­ing with the in­struc­tion. Then again, i had never heard a com­man­der of the army go­ing to a pro­gramme where in­struc­tions would be given to the army while po­lit­i­cal party songs were be­ing played.”

Brig Mokaloba sug­gested to the com­mis­sion that “maybe” it was dur­ing this pro­gramme that di­vi­sions emerged in the army.

“That was new and very crit­i­cal and i think that was when, maybe, di­vi­sions could have emerged be­cause it was dur­ing the pro­gramme that he an­nounced that sol­diers must re­port to Po­lice Head­quar­ters where he had opened an of­fice. He later went on ra­dio to say he was op­er­at­ing from Le­sotho Sun Ho­tel.

“Only about two or three sol­diers re­sponded to that call, and th­ese were run­ning away from dis­ci­plinary hear­ings they were fac­ing. in other words, two or three peo­ple don’t con­sti­tute di­vi­sions in the army. But i can’t deny that there were peo­ple out­side the army who wanted the army to be di­vided.

“even at the mo­ment, there are still no di­vi­sions in the army but sol­diers who have been charged with mutiny. The num­ber of sol­diers who were ar­rested for the mutiny is not even 100, and in de­ten­tion, there are only 22 now. Com­pared to the num­ber of sol­diers in the LDF, 22 peo­ple don’t con­sti­tute di­vi­sions.”

Sup­port for Lt-gen Kamoli at­tor­ney Khotso Nthon­tho, who is rep­re­sent­ing the mutiny sus­pects and other par­ties be­fore the com­mis­sion, asked Brig Mokaloba if it was true he con­tin­ued to sup­port Lt-gen Kamoli even af­ter he was fired and re­placed by Lt-gen Ma­hao.

in re­sponse, the bri­gadier said he could not com­ment on an is­sue which is still be­fore the Court Mar­tial.

“any­way, i sup­ported the com­mand of Lt-gen Kamoli and i will con­tinue to sup­port it. i am not sure and don’t have ev­i­dence that Lt-gen Kamoli re­fused to va­cate of­fice,” he said.

Brig Mokaloba also de­nied al­le­ga­tions that he threat­ened to kill Ltgen Ma­hao if he ever set foot in the bar­racks af­ter his ap­point­ment as LDF com­man­der on 29 au­gust 2014.

Es­corts to court Bri­gadier Mokaloba also de­nied al­le­ga­tions that LDF mem­bers es­cort­ing mutiny sus­pects to the High Court did so with their faces cov­ered.

“Colonel Sechele and Lieu­tenant Fo­nane were not cov­er­ing their faces at the court and the fact that other es­corts ar­rived at the court cov­er­ing their faces did not mean they went to the court­room like that”.

How­ever, Jus­tice Phumaphi told Brig Mokaloba that there was ev­i­dence be­fore the com­mis­sion that the Chief Jus­tice “re­proached army es­corts for go­ing into court­rooms with their faces cov­ered and clearly in­di­cated this was un­ac­cept­able”.

But Brig Mokaloba said he dis­agreed with the state­ment.

Mokema op­er­a­tion asked by King’s Coun­sel (KC) Haee Phoofolo, who is rep­re­sent­ing the Ma­hao fam­ily and other par­ties be­fore the com­mis­sion, if he was aware of the LDF op­er­a­tion which re­sulted in the ex-army chief’s death, Bri­gadier Mokaloba said: “i didn’t know there was such an op­er­a­tion on that par­tic­u­lar day”.

High trea­son ad­vo­cate Phoofolo (KC) told Brig Mokaloba he was “wanted” for high trea­son, but the of­fi­cer said the state­ment had noth­ing to do with the Phumaphi Com­mis­sion.

“On 27 July 2014, you com­mit­ted an act of high trea­son and you ap­pear again on a war­rant of ar­rest dated 29 Septem­ber 2014, for trea­son com­mit­ted on 30 au­gust 2014,” ad­vo­cate Phoofolo said.

How­ever, Brig Mokaloba said he was see­ing the doc­u­ments for the first time, and then asked the com­mis­sion to in­ter­vene.

“He is lost. Please in­ter­vene, honourable com­mis­sioner, be­cause i won’t com­ment un­til a com­mis­sion has been es­tab­lished to ad­dress this spe­cific is­sue.”

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